Chances are that you’re familiar with the Rankin/Bass version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The move came out in 1964 and iterations of the film have become a mainstay of December television programming ever since. One of the more memorable locations in the film is a place called the Island of Misfit toys, a sanctuary for defective and unwanted toys.
On this island, the toys find acceptance among themselves, and they live with a lion called King Moonracer who searches for places the misfit toys can call home. Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermey spend some time here after meeting multiple rejections in their own lives.
Feeling Like Misfits
If we’re honest with ourselves, there are times when we can all relate to those misfit toys. There are times when we feel rejected, unwanted, or even defective. We ask ourselves things like, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just fit in?” It’s during these times when we need our Savior the most. He is a God that cares for the misfits, and He cares about each one of us no matter how broken or unwanted we feel.
Jesus offers an invitation in Matthew 11:28 for all who are weary and burdened to come to Him for rest. Just a couple of chapters earlier, in Matthew 9:9–13, Jesus tells those Pharisees who were criticizing His company that His purpose is to reach out to the spiritually sick and the outcast. That is who needs Him most, and we need Him the most when we are caught up in sin and when we feel cast out.
Our Savior knows what it’s like to be a misfit. After all, He said to His own apostles, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” in John 15:18. He is there to support us because He understands what it means to be rejected. That is why Peter can write, in I Peter 5:6–7:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
A Haven for Misfits
In Jesus’ ministry, He called all regardless of societal acceptance. Tax collectors, fishermen, prostitutes, Pharisees, slaves, masters, nationalists, military occupants, thieves — these and more felt welcomed by our Lord’s invitation and responded to it. Likewise, we come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, and values. If it were not for our common love of Christ, there might be little to bring us together. He unifies us.
Philippians 2:1 – 2:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.
Just like those on the Island of Misfit Toys, we may have a hard time finding acceptance among the world, but we should always be able to find love and acceptance with each other.
Healing the Misfit
It doesn’t matter how terrible you think your past is. It doesn’t matter how broken or defective you think you are. Jesus can heal and can forgive. I John 1:9 tells us our God is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness, and II Corinthians 1:3 – 4 tells us that our God can comfort us amidst all tribulation so that we may comfort others in turn. No one is too broken or too sinful that God cannot reach them.
Think about what the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 55:6–9:
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God is telling us that He can forgive and heal us when we might think it impossible. He can heal our spirits when we think they are incurable. He can forgive what we might think are unforgivable sins. That is the power in which we seek refuge. That is the power that can heal and forgive us.
Welcoming the Misfits
Have you ever said something like, “Oh, we don’t want someone like that…” It might have to do with inviting someone to a party, someone your child shows an interest in, neighbors moving in across the street, or even someone coming to visit our congregation. Even if we don’t say it out loud, our conduct and attitude may speak volumes. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all have all demonstrated prejudices and exclusion in our lives.
The point for us is that Jesus does want “those people” to come to Him. Paul points out, in Galatians 3:28, that race, gender, and social class mean nothing to unity in Christ Jesus. Today, Paul might have to write, “There is neither wealthy or poor; neither homeowner or homeless; neither breadwinner or welfare recipient; neither upper class, middle class, or lower class; neither right-wing or left-wing; neither American, Mexican, Cuban, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Korean, or Afghan; but all can be one in Christ Jesus.” If I behave hatefully or disdainfully toward any person because of any secular difference, then I am rejecting what it means to be Christ-like.
Yes, our Savior desires repentance from sins. You can’t get around the fact that Jesus wants us to change when we come to him. But that doesn’t mean we have to have it all together before we come to Him, nor does it mean we will be exactly the same. The great thing is, we don’t have to be, for His love and the love we shine on each other, is what unites us above all else.
He wants you to come just as you are — broken, defective, battered, and bruised. He wants to heal you. He wants to repair you, however long a process that might be. We are here to help each other through that process as we each work though our own unique challenges and pains. Christ’s church is not a collection of perfect people. It is a group of people who are in the process of being perfected by their Savior. It should be a safe haven to all. We are a group of misfits united by His love and grace given to us all.
lesson by Robert Smelser