Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why is it so hard to make friends with Christians?

One of the reasons why "relationship evangelism" has been a big failure is that we have failed at making relationships with lost people (and when we actually do, we often still do not share the Gospel with them). Sadly, Christians often are not the friendliest people you can meet.

I've been asked by many non-believers (as well as Christians) why Christians are so unfriendly. Not that they aren't nice if interacted with, but often the complaint is that while Christians may be nice in an initial meeting, many of them often seem uninterested in going beyond that to forming an actual friendship.

I've heard many stories from non-believers who have told of trying to befriend Christians by extending invitations for interaction, only to be snubbed. One of my own true stories: I once served as Associate Pastor of a church for five years, and during that time I entertained numerous members of the church. Many of them responded to my hospitality, "We need to have you over for dinner some time ..." But in those five years, not a single member --- not one! --- ever invited me to their homes.

If they won't invite someone they supposedly like (at least, they told me they loved me!) into their homes, what do you think the likelihood is they invited non-Christians they didn't know and didn't have a shared faith with?

I recently tweeted about my first-time visit with a church in Vallejo, California that was the "friendliest" church I have visited in a long time. At least nine or 10 members of the congregation (excluding church staff) came up to me and introduced themselves, thanked me for visiting, and chatted with me. The worship service was one of the most enjoyable I had experienced in many years. Yet, even though I had provided the church with my contact information, the church made no attempt to contact me in any way after my visit.

How can we hope to have any opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who don't know Him if we aren't willing to befriend the lost? And how are we going to be a united body of Christ without building bonds of friendship among us?

Jesus was so known for enjoying spending time with sinners that the religious leaders of His day accused Him of being a gluttonous drunkard. He wasn't, of course, but He did pull up a chair next to the most needy, and have fellowship with those He would forgive.

When Jesus challenges us to follow after Him (Luke 9:23), maybe this is part of what He meant. Maybe His call to followership includes loving the drunks and prostitutes, the cheaters and swindlers, the criminals and liars, the adulterers and homosexuals. Because He did. Why?

"I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent," Luke 5:32.

And maybe His example of the friendships He made with his disciples is an example for us to make friendships with one another as well.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples," John 13:34-35.

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other," Romans 12:9-10.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" Hebrews 13:1-2.

"Cheerfully share you home with those who need a meal or a place to stay," 1 Peter 4:9.

Are you intentional about making friendships with unbelievers? How about loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? Is hospitality a regular practice in your life? Are you just another nice Christian to shake hands with, or do you seek for opportunities to walk into the lives of others and love them like the friend Jesus was?

Scotty

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