Eight Crayola crayons were in the box before me, the fat kind. You remember the ones– they lay flat in their box, not standing up. Ms. Bailey stood at the front of our classroom with a stack of white pages in her hand. She held up the picture of an apple, outlined in bold, black lines. “I want you to find your red crayon and hold it up in the air.” Arms raised, crayons held high, we were ready. “When I give you your picture, you may color in the apple with your red crayon. Try to stay inside the black lines, please.”
Fast forward a couple of years. We’ve moved from sitting at long tables with all of our friends, to individual desks. We’re holding our sharpened, number two pencils. Ms. Williams is standing in front of our class, with a giant piece of laminated notebook paper on the board. We have graduated from writing on wide lines with dotted lines that run through the middle to regular notebook paper and she is showing us how to use it. “You want to start on the right hand side of the red line, not out here in the margins,” she says while she points out the red line. We’re to write on the blue ones, within the red ones. Got it.
Fast forward several more years and we’re sitting in youth group at church. We’re discussing what good friendships look like and what kinds of people to choose as friends at school. More than anything, we’re hearing about all the folks that we shouldn’t be friends. Don’t hang out with the “wrong” crowd. And the list of people who are on the “wrong” list is extensive. And we go through middle, junior, and senior high school making choices and decisions that are supposed to keep us closer to God and what we tend to do—is send the message to so many of our classmates that we can’t hang out with them.
And then… we’re released into the world as adults. And we start reading more of the Bible and we’re finally thinking for ourselves. And we read about the life of Jesus where He tells us to hang out with the least of these and love the unlovely. We’re finding that He’s hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and that we’re supposed to follow Him to the same places today.
Whoa! Live among the marginalized? Did you forget, Lord? We’re not supposed to be in the margins! You can’t possibly want me to go out with those folks. What would people say? I mean, be serious. We aren’t supposed to chill with the wrong crowd.
Don’t get me wrong—I have had some of the best teachers you could ever ask for. Ask anyone who ever had Ms. Bailey or Ms. Williams and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who did not adore them! They define “good teacher” and to color neatly and write normal are god lessons. My Sunday School and youth group teachers ROCKED, we learned so much from them! I just think that part of the struggle with knowing how to live out the gospel, how to love on the marginalized, is that we’re taught our whole lives not to be in the margins.
May God ever so sternly keep us from seeing those lines…