I don’t it’s any mere coincidence that the message from Calvary Fellowship this morning was very similar to something that struck my heart last night. Yesterday was a relatively busy day with dropping off a few job applications and résumés and attending a friend’s going away party. My friend is leaving in a couple weeks to Korea to take up a year-long teaching job over there. And since she’s going to be so busy with moving her excess stuff to Portland where her parents live, she had the party last night. There weren’t very many people there and most of those who were there I didn’t know very well. But even so, I’d have to say that last night was one of the greatest nights I’ve had in a long time. And it didn’t end with the party.
Just as everyone was getting ready to leave, another friend of mine had shown up – someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. She and a friend of hers were heading to McMenamins for a happy hour drink and they invited me to join them. And so I did. While we were there at the bar, we talked about a wide variety of things; movies, music, waterfalls and even a little bit of religion. After leaving my other friend’s going away party, I didn’t really expect the night to get any more fun, but it did. The night was capped off well with a brew and two people I have hardly hung out with. Having parked my car on Patterson and 11th, I had a long way to walk from the 19th St. Café. And before I realized it, it was very close to midnight when all the festivities finally came to an end.
The long walk back allowed for some reflection time. I was listening to Griffin House (always good music to listen to, especially while walking through campus at midnight) and I started thinking about the randomness of the night. I had one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time and the people that made the difference were people who I haven’t hung out with very much at all. In fact, the one person who I had seen the most recent, I hadn’t seen for three or four months. The major thing that struck my mind while walking back to my car was the fact that I couldn’t tell who was Christian and who wasn’t; because while we were there hanging out, we didn’t really seem to care.
I don’t mean to say that we forsook our Christian lifestyle to fit in with the non-Christians; I’m just saying that if you were to be a fly on the wall, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was and who wasn’t. We were just there to hang out and enjoy each other’s friendship. It started making me wonder how many of my friends aren’t Christian. I have the bad tendency to only associate with those who are Christian or those who share my beliefs. But last night, while I was completely oblivious to it, I hung out with a group of people who I might not normally hang out with. It’s sad, but true. And yet, having gone through the experience of it all, I feel that this is an area I really need to work on. Why? Well, because if Jesus came back today and saw how often I isolate myself from those who don’t believe what I believe, I think He’d be disappointed. And then came today’s message.
Tony Overstake is one the assistant pastors out at Calvary and was filling in for Danny O’Neil, the normal pastor, while he was on vacation. His message this morning is one that I’ve heard bits and pieces of before, but the way it was delivered today really woke me up to what I was thinking about last night. The main passages for his message come from 1 Chronicles 27:33 and 2 Samuel 15:32-37, which talk about a guy named Hushai the Arkite, King David’s friend. Tony highlighted the constant mentioning of “friend” in reference to Hushai. But the biggest thing that really hit me was that Hushai was an Arkite, a Gentile, someone who was ceremonially unclean in the eyes of the Jews. And yet he was David’s friend.
It really makes you wonder if we’re really justified in hanging out with only our Christian friends. I know that it’s essential as a Christian to surround yourself with other Christians for spiritual strength, but I also know that people, especially non-Christians, won’t feel the love of God when we’re stuck in our Christian camps. The extreme conservative side of Christianity seems to be quite the exclusive club that, in order to get in, you must adhere to all the Christian things that every club member approves of. It seems to say, “If you’re not a Christian, here’s a pamphlet on how to become one, but if you are one, you must adhere to all of these beliefs to join us.” And yet Jesus had a private conversation with a Samaritan woman, something very counter-cultural to Jewish society at that time.
My whole point is this: Our Christian clubs and cliques should not be exclusive; we’re called to be a different kind of people from the rest of the world. People of this world close themselves off to different cliques and groups because of various and ridiculous differences. Christ’s bride isn’t to be just another clique like the rest of them. In all honesty, I think we are called to conduct ourselves in a way that makes people curious about who we are and what we do. I don’t believe we’re supposed to go around flaunting our good deeds, telling everyone we’re Christian for popularity points, and closing ourselves off to the “sinful” people of the world. I think we’re called to be sort of secret agents, if you will; people who live first to love like Jesus loves and then tell people who we are if they ask. I honestly believe that’s the most effective way to share the gospel with others: To show the love of Christ and then talk about it afterwards if need be. Our words about our faith should only supplement and compliment our actions towards others, not the other way around.
Last night I talked for hours with people I rarely hang out with and it was awesome. Our conversations showed me that it is possible to have a good time (not in a sinful way) with non-Christians and that’s assuming the people I hung out with were non-Christians. And with Tony’s message this morning, I feel that I should strive more to cultivate true and genuine friendships with people who have different beliefs, people who practice different things, and people who are just different from me in general. I think it’s time the church tears down its walls of division and embraces the lepers, the Samaritans, the outcasts of society and starts loving truly like Jesus. I think it’s time to be camp-less Christians.