Sometimes my younger children play by putting on crazy clothes and masks and glasses. It can not only make a person look different – it can also color their world differently. The lenses of a pair of glasses can make the whole world look different.
It seems to me that as a Christ follower, I need to have the ability and sensitivity at times to see the world through the lenses of others – especially of those who are not followers of Jesus.
For people with a non Christian worldview the world looks very different. Different values and assumptions are accepted – just like wearing different glasses. The glasses represent a set of beliefs and values and a different understanding of the world. Much has been written about post modernism and its core beliefs with its relativism, subjectivism and pragmatism. Each person has their own “truth”. The media is constantly enforcing a view that sees values as personal and relative (except for what is politically correct). Anything that can be labelled sexist or racist or intolerant is dismissed or rejected where the ultimate evil is to be seen to exclude anyone. Christianity is often wrongly portrayed as exclusive and arrogant, out of touch and not acceptable, while almost everything else is OK and even welcomed – especially other cultures and religions. All cultures are seen as equal and to be respected – except for western Christian culture.
It disturbs me greatly when I’m with other Christians who can be so unaware or insensitive to how their words and conversations “look” or sound to others. Christian language itself can be incomprehensible to non Christians. Biblical words and phrases are thrown around which may be meaningless to an average Aussie from a non Christian background. Even worse is when internal church issues or even conflict is discussed in front of others. Yes, at times I do cringe as I don’t want these issues to distract the person from considering a relationship with Jesus.
Sometimes I feel that I can see with a different lens and understand how this could appear to the wider society. I was sitting in a group one time, when someone asked a question that raised a number of theological issues. A number of believers jumped in to start to expound their understandings, which just brought further confusion to the face of the questioner. People seemed unaware of a different lens being used – it suggested possible exclusion to this person, something my Christian friends seemed not to recognize. In addition the subject involved differing opinions and understandings even within the wider Christian community. I made a suggestion that this was another subject, to be considered possibly at another time. However I felt concern as I read the way that it had come across to this person – who is still deciding whether to follow Christ – and wondered if it all made sense.
People have their hypocrisy radars on. Our society is hyper-sensitive to any statement that may appear to exclude some people or groups and is increasingly hostile to Christian views on many subjects. It’s not about any need to embrace these views, but about a sensitivity to where people are coming from. If people do not choose to accept Jesus then it is their choice, but peripheral issues or a lack of sensitivity should not cloud that choice. To communicate effectively this needs to be understood. Common ground is a good place to start to explore a person’s journey, needs and understandings, and personal story. If this respect is given, most people are open to listen to my story which involves a spiritual dimension. I am yearning for each person to be able to consider Jesus as part of their journey and to walk along beside them as a fellow traveller who is also on a spiritual journey. I don’t have all the answers but I have found someone who is incredibly unique, impactful and special. Truth, both conceptual and personal, is found in this relationship - not just in beliefs and concepts.
Many Christians (including myself at times) have thought that having “the truth” and the right beliefs are the important issue! Yet for many other people there is no absolute truth. They are, however, curious, and want to see how it works in my life, relationships and family, finances, etc. My plea is that we will not only see the world through our glasses but through that of with many other tasks. She does this better than I do! Another busy friend of mine makes time to have coffees with people on a weekly basis to build relationships.
Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 of Love Languages”, reminds us that people experience love in different ways or “languages” such as: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and giving and receiving gifts. I am not particularly good at some of these love languages, such as choosing and giving gifts. However I’ve been learning from others, who are always giving small gifts such as cards, books, flowers, plants, etc as a way of showing love. I still have much to learn to become a “better lover “of people. Jesus said that his followers or disciples would be identified by the love that they have for others (John 13:35). To become an expert at loving people is becoming a key life goal for me, which is a personal challenge as I am naturally more task orientated.
Loving people means that I desire their highest good in all areas of life. This includes their spiritual well being. From my experience, the very best I can offer a person is to introduce them to Jesus. He is doing so much in my life, not only for my eternal future but for every area of life, such as helping me to become a better dad and husband – I guess I’m a bit of a slow learner at times. But following God’s ways and listening to him has brought enormous blessing to our family and children. One aspect of this is that every week we bless each of our children individually, recognizing their good qualities, and the good things they do, and speaking well of them and listening to God about their future destiny. Many people, even unbelievers, have shared in these times and been significantly impacted. When there is an opportunity I like to introduce people to the Father, to Jesus and his Spirit. As a family we find it so exciting when we see young people and others accepting Christ, which has happened several times over the past few days and months.
The Two Key Priorities
For me loving God and loving people – which includes making disciples – are the two key priorities in my life as a Christ follower. I find that this is both helpful and clarifying, but also very challenging and only possible through the grace and empowerment of Jesus. I hope that this is not sounding all too neat and perfect because I find that it’s a journey in the “messiness of life” and I often lose focus or fail. That’s another thing I love about Jesus, is that he keeps gently reminding me and calling me back when I mess up or become distracted. In fact all of these “distractions” are part of life, rather than being separate from it.
True spirituality involves integrating love for God and for others as threads, all though the tapestry of life. When life and spirituality become disconnected and separate it quickly degenerates into “religion”- which I (and many people) find less and less appealing. In fact it can become quite distasteful. Contrastingly I’m finding Jesus and his life and teachings and love increasingly appealing. I’m getting to know a different Jesus to the one I was told about growing up in a Christian setting. He is both “delightful and disturbing”, as one writer put it. He attracts me and also disturbs my complacency, selfishness and indifference to others. He calls me to be a better man and to face myself, as well as a crazy, and often unjust and frenetic world. For me it’s important to have a compass setting to constantly check my life bearings against.