Are we willing to sit in the smoking section? (Neil Cole)
Many of us believers are so busy with our Christian friends or with church related activities that we have no time to make friends with other people. Not only that, some have an inbuilt fear that we will somehow be contaminated by rubbing shoulders too closely with "the world." (Love not world, neither the things that are in the world.) Or maybe we are concerned that we will not be able to resist temptation if confronted with it. Perhaps we feel guilty for enjoying "worldly pleasures" (I am not talking sinful situations here but the normal everyday pleasures of life.) How sad! The result is that we live isolated, legalistic lives, irrelevant to much of society.
Jesus himself related very well with the ordinary people of his day. Sinners loved him! Luke 15:1 says, "Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach." Jesus was not scared to be in a compromising situation with the woman at the well (think Jewish man alone with Samaritan women of doubtful reputation); he did not mind when a prostitute washed his feet with her tears and then anointed them with perfume. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus preferred to risk being identified with sinners than with the religious.
We will ony see the world won for Christ when we are willing to leave our church pews or our sofas. Jesus said that the sick are the ones who need a physician. The challenge is to get out into a world that so desperately needs him, to get into the trenches in the dirt and guts of life. As Romans 10: 14 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?"
How do you make friends with someone? It takes time! People instinctively sense insincerity if we make them projects rather than having a genuine friendship with them. They rightly run away from this.
So where does that leave us? Are we willing to risk our "good Christian" reputations to befriend the outcasts and marginalized of our communities? How do we form genuine friendships with not-yet-believers?
What ideas do you have?