Crossing natural friendship boundaries for the gospel

Crossing natural friendship boundaries for the gospel

The Christian church is called a family, a household and a congregation at various points in the New Testament. The church is not a building or a service but a people. And it is a people who should function quite differently to how usual families and groups of people function.

Usually, we are attracted to people like us. Many community groups revolve around a common interest or demographic, from young mother’s groups to sporting clubs to chess clubs. The church is, of course, united around Jesus. However, the people who Jesus draws to himself are from all different walks of life. There are rich and poor, male and female, a huge range of ethnicities, young and old, single and married, healthy and frail.

Most of us will by nature get along well with certain peopleand not others. We share similar interests to some people; it is hard to find things to talk about if you are obsessed with sport and the person you are speaking to is completely disinterested. We share similar life experiences with certain people too, perhaps having children the same age, or having grown up in the same part of the world. But if all we have in the church is a collection of small cliques of people who are like one another, that is doing us a disservice as well as being a poor reflection of the gospel. We will be only affirmed in our current ways of seeing the world instead of growing in understanding.

In Matthew 5, Jesus points out that everyone greets and loves people who greet and love them. That’s the easy bit. However, his disciples are to greet even their enemies and show radical hospitality to the people who we would not be expected to.

The church should be a place where everyone is welcomed and greeted and loved, regardless of who they are and where they come from. For that to happen, individual Christians need to take the instruction in Matthew 5 seriously. Married people will need to welcome singles into their homes. Young people will need to seek out the elderly to learn from their experience. Mature believers will need to read the Bible with new believers to help them understand their faith and their God. And those who are more confident will need to look out for the quieter ones to make sure they are included in conversations.

And, of course, people who come into the orbit of the church who are not believers should also be welcomed. A non-Christian who is welcomed by an interested person on their first time in a church will leave with a positive view of their experience. Instead of Christians being the intolerant, divisive people they imagined them to be, they were warm and welcoming. Who knew?

Are all your friends in church like you? If so, you need to do something about that. Talk to someone from a different country, born in a different decade. It will reflect the unity you have in Christ and will be a blessing to both of you. And it may make visitors wonder why this group of people are so united even though they are so different.