This is a question that I've been really struggling with lately. In most of my life, I feel like I'm living in a little Christian bubble. I was raised in a Christian family, I attended a private Christian school 5-12th grade, and then I went to a Bible college. I'm grateful for the way I was raised, but I often find myself wondering... How many non-Christians do I actually know? If I'm being honest, it's not many. Is that the way things were supposed to be? Is that how Jesus was?
Jesus embraced the ones the religious leaders deemed "sinners." He spent his time with tax collectors (who were absolutely hated by society, by the way), prostitutes (Mary Magdelene), swindlers (Zaccheus), and many others. He was hated by the Pharisees for this very reason. They hated that he would go to their "level." They believed that he should see himself as better than those people and not interact with them.
How often in today's society have we seen ourselves become exactly like those religious leaders? I know I certainly have. I've viewed Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, etc. as the enemy. I realize that they oppose Christianity. I realize that they don't believe what I see to be the truth. I realize that they are lost.
But if we are supposed to separate ourselves from those who are lost, how will anyone ever be saved? Honestly. We're not supposed to just reach out to those who are asking questions or are curious about Christianity. We are called to reach those who are even completely against our faith.
But... I want to be comfortable!
We were never supposed to be comfortable. We were never supposed to live an easy life where everyone agrees with us and we live in this cute little Christian bubble. We are called to be a witness to the world. This isn't just for some people that we say have the "gift of evangelism." This is a command for everyone. Every. Single. Christian. No one is excused from this, and no one is excused from loving their neighbor, even if they're *gasp* an Atheist! Or a Jehovah's Witness! ...Or anything else that you disagree with as a Christian.
We are also absolutely not called to reach out to only those who will accept us or who don't vehemently disagree with us. We will have people in our lives who hate us. That's exactly what the Bible says - the world will hate us because of Christ. Those people in our minds that we are either scared by, we can't stand, or whatever else - those are the people we need to love the most. It will make us uncomfortable. It will test our patience, courage, and even faith. But even so, it is still what we are called to do.
Where would you rather be? Would you rather be comfortable but yet complacent and not growing? Or would you rather be challenged and growing radically in your faith? Personally, I would prefer the latter.
Please know that I speaking just as much to myself as I am to everyone else. I mean, I just got a job at a Christian coffee shop at a Christian seminary, for goodness sake! It's going to be more difficult for me to develop relationships with non-believers, but this is still what I'm called to do.
Regardless of whether we want to be or not, we are witnesses for Jesus Christ. What kind of witness are we portraying if every single person we know and communicate with is a Christian? What kind of witness do we have if we refuse to listen to or even love those who disagree with us?
...What kind of witness will we have if we truly, truly love our neighbors? Not just those who live around us, but those we are in contact with on a daily basis - whether it be family, coworkers, or the cashier at the grocery store. We are to be a living witness. And a living witness that accurately portrays Jesus to the world.
Judging and treating those who oppose Christianity as enemies will never accurately portray Jesus. Only loving them will.
I recently posted this verse on a blog series that I contributed to - and regardless of the situation, this verse absolutely applies.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.