One of the key things Jesus said to the disciples about reaching the world was NOT in the “Great Commission”. It was in John 13:35:
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I’ve been thinking about this opportunity for people who do not feel “Called to evangelism” or “Called to hospitality” with the outside (outside of our Christian bubble) world. It’s basically saying to love each OTHER as an example of our love for Christ. This led me to think about my relationships with Christians. (relationships with non-christians can be highlighted in a different post—if you’re not “a follower of Christ” it’s not as if i just stick you into a particular category of “unbeliever”. I value your friendship as much as the people below (or more depending on the group, i guess!) But for the sake of this posting– I think most of my church-people friendships fit into a few categories:
1.) The acquaintances i really like: There are a lot of Christians I appreciate and like to hang out with, but we do not have time to actually get to know each other outside of weekly church (large group) events. I hang out with these people over chips and cookies and we talk about the office (show on NBC) and similar small talkish things. When talking to these people i appreciate nametags since sometimes people know my name and i forgot theirs. How do we look to the world if we are out at a bar/restaurant/bowling alley? We look just like anyone else.
2.) The good friend group: These friends and I have known each other for a while, and while not super-deep friends, we’ve had conversations here and there that show me we are not shallow either. We like to hang out often as we can, are still getting to know each other, and are usually in groups of 4-6 people at a time, guys and girls for movies, game nights and sometimes prayer. How do we look to others? Well, a lot of our events involve staying in at someone’s apartment, but when we ARE out at a public event or something, we look similar to the world and since we know each other a little better, we rip on each other a lot. You know, we tease..more than we realize (could use a videocamera for a 3 hour hang out session to see how much is teasing/ripping on each other and how much is encouragement of each other, right?)..
3.) The good friends: These friends of mine and I talk primarily about Jesus. We can’t avoid it. He comes up in conversation constantly. To the world we look like old friends having tea and catching up or talking about something we are passionate about.
There’s way more categories but I’m only showing 3 to point something out. In all of these situations, our love for one another is not necessarily letting people know that we are Christ’s disciples. In particular, ripping on each gets way old. I don’t see where (especially at the level to which we often go) it fits in to the plans of Christ for our growth. Sometimes (like 1 out of 10) someone will crack a joke at someone’s expensive that’s so funny and on the mark, i about die laughing. Most of the time, it’s slightly witty or a little funny, but not really, and some people either don’t get it (inside joke guys!) and feel left out, or feel excluded in some other way.
I’m learning this: my tongue has a lot of power to help or hurt–and even when I think i’m building others up “You look so fantastic today!”, i should be careful not to speak in idleness (maybe that girl is insecure and thinks she looks good only cause she wore 2 lbs of makeup and has extra on today) or carelessness.
The main point is: Not every time we hang out in a group of Christians is there “fellowship”. Sure we are “the fellowship” but when we flip on a movie or decide to have LOST night and watch 5 episodes, it’s not fellowship (feel free to define that in the comments section).
What an opportunity we have to display to the world that we are Christ’s disciples, just by loving each other! Instead, we try to look like the world. Some of us “bite and devour each other” (Gal. 5:15), some of us (Eph. 5:4 and 4:29) just laugh in coarse joking around, and other times we just talk about nothing.
Every year, Muslim pilgrims go to Mecca for the Haj and often, accidents occur: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidents_during_the_Hajj . People (by the hundreds) die in the heat by being trampled on by their brothers and sisters. We can offer something else through this key part of the Great Commission, but we often fail to show the world that we are not the same as everybody else—and I havent even mentioned our relationships with OTHERS! just the Christians!
Websites that poke fun at Christians or Jesus (and are made by Christians) might have a place if they could only be seen by Christians. But sites like Christwire.org, Vintage 21’s Jesus videos and a few others are (though sometimes hilarious) usually not worth the laughs they give us or the time they take to create or read—theyre just a public example of how Christians can be funny and rip on each other–and i hate them a lot.
Can we just encourage each other more or talk about Jesus and what He is doing? Can we fast and pray together and provide for the needs of all the poor or hurting among us? Then the world will know we’re Christ’s disciples. It leaves very little room for “That’s what she said” in our meetings.
p.s. i recognize i am part of the problem :).