He's the lone male RA on staff and cares for 30 freshmen guys. He "gets it." During our last one on one, he expressed his frustration that not everyone in his hall "gets it." He talked about his struggle with being negatively influenced instead of positively influencing when he hangs out with them. Several of the guys don't want to even want to be around him. (I told him I couldn't understand why.)
"How do I draw the line? They don't even want to be around me. When I'm around, I find myself doing things I don't want to. They bring me down and I really want to reach out to them."
We talked about living in a state of tension and I used the infamous illustration of a rope: it's not doing any good when it's coiled up on the ground. Only when it's pulled taut is it serving its purpose. We must be accomplishing something when we're living in tension. It's challenging and downright frustrating. We ask more questions than we have answers for. We seek. We struggle. We wrestle. We are not lying dormant or stagnant. We are uncomfortable. (And there is something to be said for living in a state of discomfort...)
We also discussed the concept of living in the world but not being of the world. We're often taught that we ought not to be OF the world. The focus is rarely on living IN the world, which is a reality for all of us. We live IN the world; so how do we do it?
The question remains: How does he live in the world without being of it? How does he reach out to his guys without being pulled down?
I reminded him that Jesus chose to eat dinner with tax collectors. These were definitely people who didn't "get it." Their knowledge about Jesus didn't influence the way they lived their lives. They were con men... and Jesus went into their homes and dined with them.
I wish you could hear the angst in his voice... "But at least he was having dinner with them! What was it about Jesus that made these guys want to be around him?"
I thought about it. All day, in fact.
So, when he asked to speak with me after our staff meeting, I was thrilled. He began by sharing some concerns about some guys on his floor and we problem-solved together. He told me he was feeling threatened and disrespected by someone on his floor, and felt so sad. He's doing everything right; why can't they see it?
I told him I'd been thinking about our earlier conversation and that there was only one explanation that I could come up with. Jesus LOVED people. The tax collectors didn't feel judged, condemned, or threatened by Jesus, which is why they didn't avoid him. We know Jesus was capable of being tempted and somehow he resisted.
These guys ate with him and lounged with him. It was probably a bit uncomfortable, I mean, it was Jesus after all, and he's sinless! Nonetheless, they opened their doors for him and all He did was love them. It's as simple and as complicated as that.
It wasn't a foreign or profound concept. Of course he's heard it before, and yet he still responded with a "hmmm" that seemed to provoke some deeper thoughts. We sat in silence for a few moments and I think we both independently decided to give love a try.
It's less about fixing people and getting them on the right track and worrying about how they are affecting us.
Maybe it's just more about loving people.