Are we able to have a conversation with someone outside of our “group”?

“This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation, especially about faith,” says David Kinnaman (President of the Barna Group).

I recently read the article quoted from above, and just had to write a post about it. Barna is a research powerhouse, and one of their recent studies found that evangelical Christians “have a particularly difficult time talking to those outside their group.” In fact, the research found that 9 in 10 (87%) would find it difficult to have a natural or normal conversation with someone from the LGBT community, while only 6 in 10 (58%) from the LGBT community felt the same way toward having a natural or normal conversation with someone from the evangelical community.

Reading this, it struck a chord in my heart. Jesus consistently, often, controversially spent much time with people outside of his “group.” He spent so much time with people outside the religious community that the religious community questioned him on the topic:

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” – Matthew 9:10-11 ESV

The Pharisees, the religious elite, could not understand why Jesus went outside of his “group” and hung out with them, ate with them, valued them and cared about them. Jesus had no difficulty having natural and normal conversations with people very different than Himself, and actually people outside of His group wanted to be in His group because of the way He treated them. He was contagious to be around. Why aren’t followers of Christ today contagious to be around? There are certainly many reasons, including because we believe and state emphatically that Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

However, I think one of the biggest reasons Christians are not contagious to be around is because we can be harsh. We can be off-putting and sometimes just downright mean. Truth without grace and love can simply be mean. We must balance truth with grace and love. We must extend love. We must allow people to belong before they believe. We must allow them to be in our community before the Holy Spirit convicts and they are converted from their old life of sin and death to a new life of freedom and life.

This post can by no means deal with all of the varying viewpoints and all the theological, social, political, and relational intricacies of what it means to love the lost, but it is something we must do. We cannot hold the world to the behavioral standards of a Christ-follower because they are not Christ-followers. The only way to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) is to go into the brokenness, go into the lostness, with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Loving the world so much that we can’t help but proclaim with love and compassion the necessity of repentance of sin and belief in Jesus Christ, while at the same time journeying with them as they work to figure this out and understand the implications of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let’s be the light and the salt, not the judgment. Let’s bring Christ with us wherever we go, living out our faith and changing the world around us as we are known for Who we are for rather than what we are against.

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Belief is a powerful thing

Here’s some Monday morning encouragement for your week. I recently looked up some quotes about “belief.” It was some pretty interesting stuff. Check these out:

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” — Stuart Chase

“In any project the important factor is your belief. Without belief there can be no successful outcome.” — William James

“The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs.” — James Allen

Here is what Jesus says to someone about belief:

“But Jesus on hearing this answered him, ‘Do not fear; only believe, and she will be made well.'”

Belief is a powerful thing. Jesus says that if Jairus, the man in this story from the book of Luke, will believe that Jesus is able to heal, his daughter will be healed as he had asked Jesus to do.

What do you believe? Who do you believe in? It’s a big deal. This week, choose to believe in the only thing, the only person, that really lasts and really follows through on promises:  Jesus Christ.

Do not be afraid, Abram (Genesis 15:1)

The first passage on this journey will be Genesis 15:1 (the verses will not always go in order from Genesis to Revelation).

“After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great” (HCSB)

GenesisThis passage comes after God called Abram and his family out of the land they had lived for many years, to a brand new location that Abram would not know of until he arrived there. God called Abram out of his comfort, away from his friends and parents, leaving with his wife, possessions, and nephew Lot. Abram and Lot separate, then Abram rescues Lot and is blessed by Melchizedek. After these events, then, means that after God had called him and these tumultuous times have happened, God comes to Abram and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.” God promises protection for Abram and God makes a covenant then with Abram that describes the reward that will come through his line of descendants. The passage in Genesis continues on:

“But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ Abram continued, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring . . .’ Now the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:2-6, HCSB)

Abram trusted God, believed in Him, even when there was no physical evidence in front of him that told him God’s promise would come true. In fact, with the age of Abram and Sarai, the physical evidence all pointed to the absolute impossibility of what God had promised. However, Abram does not have to be afraid, God will protect him and God will provide for him in ways Abram could never even imagine.

God does the same thing for us. As God tells Abram not to fear, it reminds us that God is with us. God is near to us, cares for us, and desires relationship with us, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, God does incredible work in and through us that we could never have imagined.

Open your heart to the things of the Lord. Join Him in relationship. Surrender your will to His will and live with purpose for Jesus Christ. Those who live for Christ have nothing to fear in this world.