It’s human nature to connect and hang out with like-minded people isn’t it? As a result, all too often in our Christian lives we find ourselves connecting and hanging out only with other Christians. It’s our comfortable place. We can pray together, support each other and talk about things on a personal level. But when you think about it, that’s not only what Jesus did, was it? Jesus was constantly surrounding himself with people who didn’t believe in him. Even when it led to ridicule.
What do we mean by “connecting”? We mean more than just a superficial level relationship don’t we? It’s more than just saying “Hi” to your neighbour when you put the bins out or collect your mail. It’s more than just chatting to the other mums and dads at your kids’ sports events (even if it is a “God conversation”). Connecting means inviting them into your home, having dinner with them, making a deliberate effort to get to know them and connect on a more personal level, asking them questions about how they are going, listening to their answers and interacting with them. As you get to know them more deeply, you will begin to constantly see this need in their lives that you know only a relationship with Jesus can fill.
Connecting with people in this way convinces you to get involved in their lives as a witness, because you feel their need for Jesus so much more deeply. That’s exactly what happened when Jesus connected with people. The Bible says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38). Jesus’ passion (and compassion) for evangelism grew by connecting with those far from God.
I’ll never forget going to the funeral of a friend who was a non-Christian. It was one of the most saddening things I have ever attended. The sheer lack of hope was staggering. They talked about what a nice person he was and said things like, “I am sure he is now sleeping with the angels”. But I knew that was not the case. When you begin to spend time and connect with people who don’t know Jesus—when you go deeper with them and become their friends—it spurs you on. How can we not be inspired to share Christ’s love with them when the alternative is their eternity under God’s wrath?
What about when you just cannot get along with someone? When they are not “your type”. John Piper puts it beautifully: “Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have a love for the lost? This is a term we use as part of our Christian jargon. Many believers search their hearts in condemnation, looking for the arrival of some feeling of benevolence that will propel them into bold evangelism. It will never happen. It is impossible to love ‘the lost’. You can’t feel deeply for an abstraction or a concept. You would find it impossible to love deeply an unfamiliar individual portrayed in a photograph, let alone a nation or a race or something as vague as ‘all lost people’.
Don’t wait for a feeling or love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by him, but separated from him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.”
I will finish with this challenge to you. When was the last time you had dinner with some non-Christians that you know? Or went for an outing with them? Even went away with them camping or on a holiday? For the vast majority of us, it happens rarely, doesn’t it? So when you next see your neighbour, or are next at your kids sports event and you see someone who you know doesn’t know the Lord, take a moment to ask the Lord for guidance and make a point of beginning to draw that person into your life so that they can see the difference that Jesus has made to you and they can experience true Christianity in action as you relate to them and others around you.