“When I have been lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people toward me.”
(John 12:32, GW)

One of my favorite word pictures from the Bible is found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. When I read in this passage how God uses believers to spread “the fragrance of the knowledge of [Christ]” everywhere we go, it always brings to mind the aroma of a home-cooked meal and how it draws guests into the kitchen to see what’s cooking. Or maybe it’s the fragrance of a newly blossomed flower that makes you want to come close, bend and take a whiff.

A few weeks ago, I was reading that very passage during my morning devotions. As I thought again of that fragrance of Christ that attracts people to God through us, I told the Lord, “I want to be a magnet that draws people to Jesus.”

Instantly He reminded me of a nickname I assigned myself years ago. Frustrated with the way I so frequently attracted the attention of peculiar people, I started referring to myself as a “flake magnet.” I often complained to my husband and others, “Why is it that the weirdos are always attracted to me? It’s the ones nobody else wants to mess with that seem to gravitate in my direction. Why can’t I attract more of the ‘beautiful people,’ instead?” This time, God showed me that being a ‘flake magnet’ might not be such a bad thing, after all.

Jesus was a tremendous ‘flake magnet’ Himself. Think of all the dysfunctional, sickly and rejected people that our Lord attracted. Christ was criticized for hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners,” such as Zacchaeus and Matthew. He touched people considered ‘unclean,’ including lepers and the woman with a bleeding disorder. Some of His disciples, like Peter, James and John, were hot-heads who said impulsive, and often, inappropriate things. Jesus was sponsored by Mary of Magdala, a woman from whom He had cast out seven demons. He had a conversation with a Samaritan adulteress at a well, and then she went on to call everyone in her village to meet Him. He specialized in drawing broken, unattractive, ordinary people to Himself, so that He could heal, deliver and empower them.

Magnets attract metal. And what they attract best are small, broken pieces of iron or steel. Magnets are useful for drawing lost pieces of metal out of hard-to-reach places. They cause isolated pieces of metal to clump together. They can pull pieces of metal free from something in which they have been trapped. And by magnetizing other metal, they can extend their attraction far beyond their own field.

That’s what Jesus wants us to be like. He wants us to go to the outcasts, the lonely, the diseased, the disturbed, the unloved and unlovely. He wants us to extend to them the same compassion and forgiveness we ourselves received. He wants us to tell them what He’s done for us, so they have the hope that He can and will do the same for them.

When the important people of Jesus’ day couldn’t understand why He chose to hang out with less desirable individuals, He explained, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32, NKJV). In Luke 4:17-21, when Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2, He said He was the One anointed to proclaim the good news to the poor, brokenhearted, blind, captive and oppressed. That’s our mission, too. Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant” (NCV). The Gospel isn’t for those who ‘have it all together.’ It’s for those who know their lives are a mess! Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that it was not for good, wholesome people that Christ died, but for weak, helpless sinners.

So, I guess it’s not such a bad thing to be a flake magnet, after all. I plan to keep going to the local jail and telling drug addicts, alcoholics and trouble-makers that Jesus can set them free. When homeless beggars ask for a hand-out, I’ll give what I have, but I’ll also try to pray with them. I want to be generous with my time and listen to the lonely. Whoever God draws to me—whether or not I feel comfortable with them—I want to minister to. After all, I was a flake once myself, and Jesus drew me in. How could I do any less?

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