For over a decade now, I’ve had the joy of interacting with men and women who are said to be on the “margins of society.”
The word margin simply means “the edge or border of something.” When describing people, the word typically references those who don’t fit into the normal social structure of a community. Maybe they are homeless, addicted, severely mentally ill, or economically disadvantaged in some way.
For a while, I thought marginalized people were like Pluto, the ex-planet. Isolated, forgotten, and purposely excluded — far from the center.
I thought Jesus was like the sun. If Christians wanted to reach the marginalized, they had to first meet Jesus (the sun), travel far away to find the lost person, then bring that person all the way back to Jesus.
But I’m learning that Jesus is more like a black hole.
And the margin is like an event horizon.
I’m not going to pretend to know a ton about astrophysics, but I do know that an event horizon is the edge of a black hole — the point beyond which the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing escapes, not even light.
So the people classified as marginal are indeed on the edge, but it’s the edge closest to Jesus.
And as we draw closer to Jesus, we inevitably run into the edge and interact with the marginalized.
You don’t have to read the gospel of Luke for more than five minutes to realize this is true. Jesus attracted a certain demographic. The crowds that surrounded him were beggars, sinners, lepers, demon possessed, and the blind.
Sometimes the edge was so dense that Jesus and his disciples could hardly move around. Like the time a sick woman reached out to touch Jesus.
Jesus asks who touched him and Peter, noticing the silliness of the question says, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you.” (Luke 8:45b, ESV)
On another occasion, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus walks through the countryside healing those on the margin. At the end of his journey, he notices the people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. But he also points out an important truth:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, ESV)
For Jesus, the marginalized are the harvest, a population ready to receive the gospel. Right on the edge of the kingdom, just needing a little nudge.
My friend Mike used to live with us in a terrible neighborhood. He was a night owl and often stayed out on the front porch past midnight.
Some of our neighbors — the type of neighbors who wander the streets past midnight — started interacting with him. They’d walk up to the porch and ask him for prayer or spiritual insight, or some kind of material help.
One day, exasperated, Mike asked me, “Do I have a sign around my neck inviting our strangest neighbors to come talk to me?”
He wasn’t actually frustrated. He liked the interactions.
The truth is, Mike is close to Jesus, and people on the margins can see that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped while walking through my neighborhood. Total strangers say, “You must be a Christian. Can we talk?”
Here’s the point: Jesus is drawing you to himself. One day, you won’t be able to escape his pull.
For now, as you draw nearer to him, expect to find yourself on the edge, in the margin. And just like the sick woman, you may have to press through a needy crowd just to touch the healer.
But if you find yourself being terribly inconvenienced and having to go out of your way to find the marginalized, you might want to question what is at the center of your universe.