A Troubling Question: Why do many Christians have so few non-Christian friends?
- Matthew 9:11.
- Today there seems to be surprisingly little voluntary relationship between Christians and non-Christians. Of course, there is interaction at work and at Wal-mart, but many Christians seem to spend the vast majority of their time with fellow believers, while non-Christians often say they don’t have a serious Christian among their friends.
- What was the big deal with tax collectors? They were considered to be traitors to the Jewish cause because they were working for the Roman government.
- This, of course, is a two-way problem, because it’s also true that many non-Christians have a low opinion of Christians and aren’t really that interested in being around them. There’s some overlap in these two problems, but we’ll be concentrating on the one aspect of the issue.
- It’s telling to listen to the tone of the Pharisees’ statement. They are just flabbergasted that Jesus would want at all to be around these “unclean” people, these lowlifes. This is not merely an academic question for them or a matter of mental curiosity. They deeply cannot conceive of why someone who claims to be a godly teacher would be in this crowd.
- It’s important for us to hear them because they’re a lot like a lot of churches and a lot of Christians. “Why would you want to be around them?” “I don’t like talking to him.”
A Picture: Is church supposed to be a spotless laboratory or a working hospital?
- Matthew 9:12.
- This is a crucial statement that Jesus is making here. In fact, it’s important enough that this story is repeated in the first three gospels.
- Being around the “sinners” is not simply an add-on to what He’s doing on this planet – it’s at the core of why He came in the first place. I came for those who are sick.
Gut Check: The extent to which they love Jesus but not us is the extent to which we’re not like Jesus.
- Matthew 9:10.
- One simple fact is that Jesus apparently like being with them.
- We do need to acknowledge that many of the “sinners” eventually walked away from Jesus for various reasons, primary among which were the spiritual demands He made, their dislike for the truth, or a misunderstanding of who Jesus really was.
- That’s important, but it doesn’t change the fact that there was something about Jesus that drew people to Him – people who thought little of the religious leaders of the day. Something was different about Him.
A Church That Looks More Like Jesus:
1. Don’t lose sight of grace.
- Matthew 9:13.
- Grace is important to keep in mind as an antidote to spiritual pride.
- Going back to the earlier statement, you could also say that the extent to which people dislike us may also indicate the extent to which we’ve misunderstood grace.
- Being holier-than-thou comes right from this source.
- One of the biggest complaints from non-Christians is the judgmental attitude that some Christians have.
- It becomes a lot easier to love the sinner and not the sin when we remember that God did that for us.
- Jesus prefaces His comment with “Go and learn,” which is a word of rebuke. Kind of like: “Seriously, you don’t understand this elementary stuff?”
- When Jesus speaks of the righteous here, He doesn’t mean those who are full of themselves and holier-than-thou. We know that righteousness through self-effort is impossible. Our only chance at righteousness comes through grace.
2. Quit being shocked that sinners act like sinners.
- We’ve got to embrace people where they are – in their mess.
- Jesus came for messed-up people, not people who have their act together.
- To be brutally honest here, part of the issue may also be that we don’t want to deal with their mess.
- We need to recognize that “sinners” are not the enemy – they’re the hostages. You’re not a very good rescue team if you shoot the hostages!
3. Pop the Christian bubble.
- Many times churches have such an extensive calendar that we end up spending all of our time at church. A typical Sunday could be Sunday School, then worship, then going out to eat with church friends, then a quick nap before heading off to youth group meeting, then evening worship, then a social afterwards. Before you know it, you’ve spend 6 or 7 hours at church on a Sunday.
- During the week, we add more stuff in.
- It’s come to be that many churches partially judge their success based on how many activities they have going on each month. If you’ve got dozens of things happening, then you must be doing something right. But an inevitable result of that is that many of your church people end up having their lives revolving around church.
- It’s as though we all come inside the Christian castle and hang out inside.
- One of the things we want to do at NewPoint is to only do what’s going to help people become followers of Christ. The rest of the stuff we want to drop.
- Among the results of this is that we want people to have lives outside the church and friendships outside the church.
4. Ask the Father to help you see them as He does.
- Matthew 9:9.
- We need to confess our lack of love for people that God has said are important to Him and seek His forgiveness.
- Often we evaluate people based on their usefulness to us, not on their intrinsic value to God. The unsaved person who is far from God is likely to be a drag on your life for a long time before he is a source of joy or strength. Do I see that as something to avoid because he’s not useful to me?
- In Matthew, Jesus say someone worth having on His team.
- We have to be willing to accept someone as a work-in-progress (not unlike we are). Instead of being quick to judge where all they’re falling short, we need to consider what God sees in them that’s worthwhile.
- Part of interacting with non-Christians and growing to love them has to do with asking more questions rather than feeling like we always have to have all the answers. We’ve often learned in evangelism seminars and sermons that we should be shoving the truth down their throats every time there’s an opening.
- In truth, listening and caring usually makes more headway. That’s not to say that we don’t know the truth or share the truth, just that we have to know them and care for them first.