There’s a friend of mine who chooses to be a permanent stranger. He has been hurt and he has hurt other people, and as a result he has created this life pattern where he simply runs away from intimacy, from love.
He thinks it’s safer this way, that he can rely on himself. But time and time again he ends up scared and alone. You cannot stay a stranger to people and yet still be loved. The two are mutually exclusive, because true love loves in spite of knowing the truth about someone. True love—Christ-like love—is not anonymous; it’s personal.
My friend’s shame nips at his heels, chasing him farther away from the community of Christ. As God’s hands and feet move toward him with arms outstretched, he runs. He assumes he’s being pursued like prey or that he won’t measure up. Or both.
He is like the prodigal son who has not yet returned. He yet remains a stranger.
Our Life in the Shadows
It isn’t just my friend who hides; we are all drawn to a life in the shadows. Though we may seek fame and love and recognition, it is terrifying to become fully known. In a way, we all choose to be strangers. Our fear of being exposed motivates us to protect ourselves by hiding ourselves. Recall Adam and Eve naked in the garden. That’s us.
God asks Adam and Eve who told them they were naked. In other words, “Why the shame?”
Because they knew they had sinned against God and were now exposed for who they truly were.
Our sin makes us strangers to God and strangers to our fellow humans. We hide from God’s wrath, but like a child who thinks she’s invisible because she’s covered her face, we cannot hide from wrath.
But God . . .
Brought Close by a Stranger
There is this other stranger I know. And this stranger is not one who runs away or hides in shame or wallows in guilt. This stranger runs toward the brokenness. This stranger turns other strangers into family members and friends. This stranger made himself an outcast so we could be brought close to the family of God.
Jesus came and lived on the outskirts as a stranger—as the Stranger—and was mocked, beaten, and killed for his strangeness. He claimed to be king. He claimed to be God. And he was, but the world wasn’t ready to believe that. The world didn’t know him and didn’t want to. A Stranger walking out of the shadows right up to us so he could wash our feet? What’s the catch?
There is no catch, because he paid for the right to do it.
Our sin makes us eternal strangers to God. We drive a wedge between us and him. But Jesus became a stranger so we could be called sons and daughters of God. So we could be truly known not for our sins, but for our family name.
Cover photo by Akshay Paatil.
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