I’ve wondered for quite some time why I devoured and loved To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s only been recently that I realized why Tom Robinson’s story touched me so. He was on the outside. Not included. On the fringes. Not believed. Forsaken by many.
There were times in my life I felt that way, and I suspect many of you have had periods where you’ve felt on the outside. School breeds these kinds of feelings. I remember wearing the wrong clothes to my new school in sixth grade, how out of place I felt, how ashamed, how different. Though I wasn’t persecuted, I did feel the alienation of being different.
Growing up as an only child, I had ample opportunity to sit back and observe, to be on the sidelines watching others interact. This observation has helped me immensely as a writer, but it also served to separate me from others.
So I empathize with folks on the outside because I’ve been there. I certainly don’t believe I’ve walked in Tom Robinson’s shoes for any stretch, but I have worn the flips flops of an outsider. And in that, I am deeply thankful for Jesus.
Hebrews 13:12 says, “So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.” Jesus’ own death didn’t occur near a palace, or even on the streets He used to walk. He suffered outside the gates of the city, outside of community, outside of prominence. Like Tom, He was an innocent man, paying for the sin of another. And He did so alone.
If Jesus, the Holy Outsider, can perform such a wild act of self-sacrificing love, perhaps I can stoop to untie His sandals and walk in His steps. And maybe if we all wear those sandals, there will be less alienation, less prejudice, less outsiders.
One can only hope.