Jesus’ model—relational time with secular people

What does ‘following Jesus’ mean to you as a Christian? What does it mean to be ‘Christlike’? I want to suggest to you that a person is not Christlike if they are not spending significant relational time with secular, non-churched people. Here’s why.

 

We’ve come to think of Christ-likeness as defined by Jesus’ character, his resistance of temptation, his purity. We think of his relationship to the Father, his prayer life, his servant leadership, his love of scripture. All of these things are beautiful marks of Jesus’ life on earth and will also mark our lives as we grow to be more like him.

 

But there is something else that we see again and again in the descriptions of Jesus by those who knew him best and gave us his story. In fact, this something else is presented as such a foundational characteristic of Jesus’ life, something he himself spoke of with words overflowing with purpose and significance, that we can truly say that a person is not Christlike if this thing does not mark their lives as his followers.

 

What is this other thing? Jesus constantly spent quality relational time with secular people!

 

Maybe you think, “Of course he did. Culture was much more relational back then and people had way more time for relationships than they do today.” But you would be wrong. What Jesus did was not normal for his culture.

 

The origins and history of the nation of Israel were all about religion and commitment to God. But in Jesus’ day a large chunk of the population had become secular. They didn’t go to synagogue; they didn’t learn the Bible; they didn’t worry about keeping the rules laid down by the religious leaders.

 

The gulf between these people and the religious people was huge. To religious people there were two categories of people: on the one hand were those who attended synagogue and kept all the rules and rites of purification, and on the other hand were the “sinners”. They used this word “sinners” as a technical term to refer to the secular, non-synagogue-attending Jews. In their minds, if you spent relational time with “sinners”—if you spent time in their homes and ate and drank with them—it made you unclean.

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That’s why they were so puzzled at Jesus’ actions. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Mark 2:16

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2

 

Later in his ministry when they were really criticising him Jesus would point out: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

 

It wasn’t normal in his day for a person who followed God to spend time with secular people. It wasn’t natural among Jesus’ friends to eat in the homes of people who didn’t attend synagogue. It was looked down upon for Jesus to be a friend of “sinners”.

 

So why did he make it his way of life to do so? He answered this very question: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Those secular, non-synagogue-attending Jews would not come to synagogue to get right with God, and they would never be reached by those who stayed aloof from them. They would only have their hearts turned back to God if someone reached into their world, became a part of their lives, hung out in their homes, and pointed them to God.

 

Last thoughts

 

Jesus was committed to doing just that. He wants you to have an equal commitment to it as his follower. If you want to follow Jesus, then spend relational time with secular, non-churched people!

 

 

How do I get out of my Christian bubble ?

A few years ago God convicted me that I was not living as a witness in my daily life. I was not trying to help people find Jesus as part of my everyday encounters with them.

As I thought about starting to live as a witness for Jesus I realised I had a big problem. I worked for a Christian organisation, my family were all believers in Jesus, my friends all knew the Lord, my ministry was to church leaders, and all my activities were organised around church or these Christian relationships. Was I supposed to give up my Christian activities? Who would I be a witness to?

Does that sound familiar to you? Maybe you work in a secular environment, but you don’t feel it’s appropriate to talk to people about God there. And all that you do outside of work is among Christians. You love your time with the Christians around you, but you wonder if it is even possible for you to be a witness the way your life is organised.

Probably the answer is no—it’s not possible. Your life will have to change if you are going to get out of the Christian Bubble and start having gospel conversations with people who are totally secular and out of reach of the organised church. You really can’t bring personal evangelism into the Christian Bubble.

 

Here’s what needs to happen:

 

  • You will have to make the conscious choice to step out of the bubble.

 

Here’s the truth—nobody drifts towards evangelism. The Bubble is what’s comfortable; it’s what you are used to; it is the known. We fear the unknown and avoid it by nature. That means that stepping outside of the Christian Bubble is stepping outside of your comfort zone. It won’t happen just because you know it should, or just because you want it to.

 

You have to decide, “This is God’s purpose for me on earth. The Great Commission isn’t just for missionaries—it’s for every Christian and that means me. Jesus modelled getting out of the bubble even when the religious people thought he should only be spending time with them. He said, ‘It is not the well who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’ I’m going to start building relationships with people who need God.”

 

That decision is the start of the journey.
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  • You will need to think of secular environments that are relational and put yourself regularly into at least one of them.

Don’t choose something you won’t enjoy—choose something that interests you! A sports team, a hobby group, a four wheel drive club, a charity, a book club, or simply relationships with neighbours. Maybe something you have always wanted to do but never got around to. Just make sure it has lots of people involved who need to encounter Jesus Christ.

 

How can you fit it in? Not willing to give up any of your existing relationships with Christians to make time for it? Why not invite one of them to join the group with you? Go together with the purpose of building redemptive relationships. Pray together for the people you get to know.

 

 

  • Have fun with secular people (without compromising) and also go past the surface with them.

 

Build real relationships. Don’t just spend time with people to preach to them. Enjoy your time together. At the same time, ask questions that go past the surface so that you really get to know them. This is when you will see their brokenness and can talk openly about aspects of the Christian life that bind up the wounds of that brokenness. You can start talking about Jesus.

 

 

  • Enjoy life outside the Bubble and invite more and more Christians to come outside with you!

 

The more you spend time outside the Bubble, the more you will see Jesus empowering your Christlike lifestyle with those outside. You will sense his pleasure and know that this is his purpose for you. He is sending you outside the Bubble, just as his Father sent him!

 

Last thoughts

You miss the best part of the Christian life when you live in the Christian Bubble. Jesus lived outside the Bubble and he wants to keep doing that…through you!

How can I love them when I don’t agree with their actions?

I’ve been wrestling lately thinking about the people in my life who I would love to develop a deeper relationship with but feel restrained because I can’t go along with their way of life. I know Jesus calls me to love this person but I find myself asking, “How can I love this person when I don’t agree with what they are doing?”.

 

I am not the only one

 

As I listen to those around me speak about their relationships with others and observe what is happening between various people groups in our community, I discover I’m not the only one wrestling with this question. How do we love the drunkard who mistreats his wife? How do we love the activists who believe abortion is a valid option? How do we love those whose desire is to redefine marriage to accommodate a sinful lifestyle? How do I love those who by their actions mistreat others or mistreat me?

 

Jesus – a friend of sinners

When Jesus lived here on earth he never compromised his message. He stood for truth and righteousness and yet the “sinners” loved to come near and listen to him. What was it about Jesus that was so attractive to these people? How did Jesus love people in his time even though he didn’t agree with them and what they were doing?

When we read through the gospels we see Jesus spending considerable time with secular, non-believing people. In fact, Jesus had a reputation for hanging out with secular people. In Luke 15:2 “the Pharisees and scribes grumbled, saying, ‘this man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners” Matthew 11:19. But Jesus’ aim wasn’t just to become great mates with the world and accept their sinful practices.

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People in need of a physician

 

No, he came to call people to a new way of life. In Luke 5:30  “The Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”  

Jesus was able to love people in his time even though he didn’t agree with them and what they were doing because He didn’t just see sinful practice, He saw sick people. Sick people in need of a physician—someone who could make them well, heal their hurts and most importantly, restore them in their relationship with God.

 

Last thoughts

How do you view the secular people in your life? Do you see a sick person in need of a physician or are you like the Pharisees that only see sinful practice? It’s only when we spend time loving people that we discover how unwell they are without Jesus in their lives. When we spend time loving people, then they discover their need for Him.

 

Don’t be like the Pharisees. Choose today to see people like Jesus saw them and feel free to love them as he did.

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