World Impact Men’s Retreat in September, I sat around the fire for hours both with boys as young as 12 and men with grey hair. We shared the quietness of the night and built—some for the first time—sweet s’mores. The flames allowed, in this particular case, men to open up parts of their hearts and share thankfulness for different aspects of life.
Normally where we work, live, and play, we lean toward people that are very similar to us. Hobbies that are similar, life stages that align, similar looks. We build these categories that help us feel more comfortable with who we are and we believe help us understand the world better. Jesus was different.
I imagine sitting around fires was a way of life in the time of Jesus. Much like today, people tend to run with familiar crowds. It was even scandalous to associate with the “others.” But Jesus, friend of tax collectors, healer of women, chain-breaker of prisoners, welcomer of children, was unlike us. He truly valued all people and the image of God that is within us.
“I’m thankful this even makes sense," one of the grey-haired men shared. With such authenticity, half of the men immediately knew what he meant. Those of us still wondering soon learned this man's life and three others there with us had been sentenced to serving life in prison. These men had spent a combined 79 years locked up. God used their choices and experiences to open their eyes to Jesus. Years before this moment they thought the rest of their lives were determined to be behind bars. Now they found themselves sitting around a fire, at a men’s retreat, eating s’mores and sharing of the joy of following Jesus.
This is one of the most striking things about Jesus. His life was so different and His path so focused. It often makes little sense to us and naturally we choose to go in the opposite direction of the way of Jesus. I'm not sure this moment, with these men, at a Christian camp would have made much sense many other places. Jesus has done a work through World Impact for many years now. The fruit of this work are these times, when things that would have never made sense are now very recognizable as the only thing that does make sense.
We need more of the way of Jesus—holiness that draws people in, not pushing them out. Love that values the image of God in each individual, and care and development for the uniqueness of people. The Oaks is a place this is happening; diverse Christian retreat and camping experiences that lead to care and growth of individuals and groups.