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!

 

 

Dating a non-Christian – Is it a good idea?

Single people from all walks of life often wonder if dating a non-Christian is a good idea. Oftentimes that question arises when the person already has a non-Christian they like in their life and are unsure of whether or not to go ahead and enter a significant relationship. The Bible doesn’t give us a list of 15 rules we must follow when we start dating, but it gives us a clear picture of what it means to be in the world and not of the world as a Christian.

 

And that is the lens from which we will look at this topic today:

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?

If you are a believer and profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no getting around the fact that this is by far the most influential relationship you will ever have.

It’s a relationship that will shape your identity, form your beliefs, influence your choices and guide the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship that will not just change you, it will re-create you. You are made absolutely new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

I realise this blog post is about dating, not about marriage, but I’m going to jump ahead to marriage because even if you’re not sure that is where the relationship will end up, that possibility should be a consideration when you’re deciding who to date.

 

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What is marriage?

God designed marriage. That means that he knows best how it should operate. His word gives us the principles we need for satisfying marriages. It takes three to make a good marriage: God, the man, and the woman. For a Christian to marry an unbeliever is to enter marriage lacking something essential. Marriage has been described as a triangle with God at the top: the closer each partner moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. The further each moves from God, the further they move from each other. As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced alienation from each other and Adam began blaming Eve for his problems.

Broken marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God.

 

Building a life on two different foundations.

As a Christian, your life is built on a desire to trust and follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. For the other person who is not a Christian, it is very likely that they have built their life on a desire for success, money, health etc. Things that are good, but not necessarily heavenly. Somewhere, at some point, you will realise that you are building a life as a couple on two different foundations.

And if dating turns into marriage, this will cause a lot of disagreements around finance management, your children’s education, and religious beliefs.

 

Last thoughts

It is not my job as a person sitting behind a laptop typing out a blog post to tell you who you should or shouldn’t date. That is your responsibility. Make sure you talk about it with your family, friends and people who are responsible for your spiritual growth (your pastor, youth leader etc).

However, one thing I want you to take away from this article is this: How do you imagine your life? Do you imagine yourself serving the Lord wholeheartedly? Do you imagine being involved in ministry? Do you imagine attending church with your husband/wife? Do you imagine your children growing up to love Jesus?

Because if you imagine yourself living a devoted life for Jesus, dating a non-Christian might get in the way of that life. Do you want to pay that price?

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!

My mates go for a drink after work, what does this mean for me?

Heading down to the local pub for a few drinks after work is very much a part of Aussie culture. Being invited by work colleagues may excite some but for others the thought of being in a worldly environment proves a challenge to their way of thinking. What does it mean for me when my mates go for a drink after work?   

I have come to realise that when I am invited for drinks a significant step has taken place in my relationship with that person. In effect that person is saying “I value spending time with you and I enjoy your company.” This invitation also reveals to me something significant about that person. This is an environment where they feel relaxed and comfortable to spend time together.

 

Let me ask you this

Isn’t this the place we want to be in our relationship with the people in our lives, where they feel comfortable to initiate spending time together? Don’t we want people to feel relaxed and to trust us enough to be who they are around us?

Accepting an invitation like this can send a powerful message to your mates. It can show them that you also value your relationship with them and feel comfortable to be yourself in “their world”. Accepting an invitation breaks the myths that Christians are out of touch with this world, that they are judgemental and in their own “bubble”.

 

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Most practically though, this may be the perfect opportunity for you to get to know them better and develop a true redemptive relationship with some colleagues. Could this be an opportunity to have conversations that go beneath the surface?

It would be crazy for me to suggest everyone should always accept this invitation. For some, being in an environment like this would present too great a temptation. For others, entering a situation like this may cause a stumbling block to others. So “take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” 1 Corinthians 8:9

But for many, we must remember our focus is not where we are but our focus is to be why we are there. Jesus has sent us into the world, just as he was sent into the world by his Father in heaven (John 17:18). Like Jesus we are sent into the the world, but as his disciples we are to live a life committed to purity and keep ourselves “unstained from the world” James 1:27

 

Last thoughts

For the Christian, the invitation for drinks after work by mates isn’t an invitation to get drunk. Neither is it an invitation to just go along with the world. It can be, however, an invitation by God into that person’s life, an opportunity to bring Life (Christ) into that relationship.