“And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites.” -1 Peter 1:17
This is a tricky subject to write about, particularly for me. I have always felt like an outsider regardless of which group I was with. I sometimes feel like an outsider when I’m with Christians due to my trans identity, I sometimes feel like an outsider when I’m with LGBT people because I’m a devout Christian. I often feel like an outsider when I’m around other people because of my autism. I never fully understand the world or people around me, no matter where I am or who I’m with.
Conversations are difficult for me because words get mixed up in my head, which means I sometimes say sentences in the wrong order and have to back up and try again. Social settings are difficult for me because I don’t know how to interact with people. Since I can’t generalize my experiences, every situation is new for me and I have learn all over again. Eye contact is impossible for me, because eyes carry far too much information in them.
But I’ve learned to accept and embrace my autism, as well as my gender identity, and doing so has strengthened my faith as a disciple of Jesus. Unfortunately, I will probably never stop feeling like an outcast in my respective communities. There are plenty of Christians who think my autism is something that they need to pray for — though fortunately none of my church friends think this — they can’t understand why I’d want to keep it.
Frustrating as this is I have to remind myself that these Christians are flawed human beings, just like me. God loves them just as they are, in the same way that he loves me just as I am. I can’t pick and choose who I’m patient with and who I’m not, just as I can’t pick and choose who I think God wants me to show His love to. God never told me the job of being His light would be easy.
My grandest goal as a Christian is to fully become the love of God for those around me. This means I have to be just as patient and loving with my fellow Christians as I am with perfect strangers who scoff at the words of Jesus. God is endlessly patient with me, even in my most ungrateful moments. Am I any less broken than the person who annoys me the most? The Bible tells me that I am not. Therefore, it is not about me, or the respect I think I deserve, it is about God and the sacrifice he made for all of us.
No matter what the circumstance, whether I’m conversing with a pagan, an atheist, or a super conservative fellow Christian, I must remember that they are all the same in God’s eyes and be an example of that perfect love He gives me every day. God does not play favorites, those people we encounter inside and outside the church who are most difficult to show love to are the ones on whom we should lavish it the most. Small matter if they don’t feel compelled to return our affections, the sad truth is that we will not always be loved by people for what we do. But I can guarantee that Jesus already knows exactly how that feels, and he was willing to give his life for the very people who put him to death.
“Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'” (Luke 23:34) Some people will always be hostile to us, even within the church itself. Keep in mind, though, that even Jesus was often unpopular with religious people and he was still willing to forgive them from the cross.
Since we are not perfect, we are going to stumble and fall when we try to love like Jesus. I stumble all the time when I’m trying to love difficult people, but practice makes perfect. When we fail, we have to press into Jesus and try again. There is always another chance when we serve the Trinity, we can never fail badly enough to lose our chance for loving others.
There will be days when we don’t think we can continue, when our suffering just feels too great. But if we let it, God’s grace will carry us through. Jesus loves the outcast, his ministry in the Gospels is the perfect testimony to that. If we suffer for his name, his mercy and grace are always upon us. No matter what.