As I was settling into my seat on the airplane (yes, another flight...and another opportunity to trust Jesus more and more!), I noticed right away that the older gentleman next to me was a talker. Friendly and inquisitive, my fellow passenger--we'll call him "Doctor" because he was one (I know, crazy creative)--began asking his non-stop questions on this non-stop trip to Seattle. The more we talked, the clearer it became that he was the exact opposite of me. Politics? Religion? You name it, we were black and white. But, we both liked talking and people so the conversation flowed freely. While I nibbled on my Biscoff, Doctor said, "What religion did you say you were?" He brought it back up. He wanted to talk. He opened the door and invited me to step right in.
So I did.
I learned a lot about what makes this particular atheist tick, and he learned a lot about why I love God. It's been six days since our conversation, but I'm still thinking about it and praying that Doctor saw Jesus in me.
While in Seattle, it wasn't too difficult to notice the differences between many of the natives and me. For one, I felt old. Most of the people appeared to be in their twenties, maybe thirties. A great percentage sported tattoos and piercings. And, the city as a whole was so casual that sometimes it was awkward discerning who was just "grunge" and who was a panhandler.
The point I'm trying to make here, though, is that when people look unfamiliar or unconventional, what is your response?
Judgment? Fear? Discomfort?
Do you run for a familiar face when you're among those you don't know? When the conversation becomes uncomfortable as your partner discloses beliefs 100% divergent from your own, do you excuse yourself?
do you reach out and get to know the unknown? Do you press into the conversation to try to understand the other's perspective? Do you share of yourself so they can see your vulnerability?
I remember reading a book a long time ago that challenged the "Christian bubble". You know the 'space bubble' that every person supposedly has...if you get too close to another person, you might be intruding upon her space bubble and it makes her feel uneasy? Well, the Christian bubble is what Christians apparently create when we stick with others who are just like us. There can be times when this is wonderful, and even biblical. For instance:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25
But, of course, there are other times when a Christian bubble is not beneficial. Times like conversing with a stranger who doesn't know the hope of Christ. Times like extending kindness to someone who looks strange to you. Times like talking with people, even other Christians, whom you don't know very well.
When the "Bubble" prevents us from loving on the unlovely, on the unfamiliar or on the ungodly, then we are probably operating in Fear Mode, not Love Mode. God's perfect love casts out fear, so let's consider how to know and live out God's perfect love. For one, that means setting my comfort zone aside. Maybe I am afraid that the tattooed young lady will not want my friendship, or perhaps I have other people--familiar friends--whom I would prefer to talk with at church events rather than the newbies...but this kind of living shows that my motive is all about me: my comfort zone, my desires, my plans.
Our Bubble bursts when it becomes all about God. Our eyes open to needs out there in the world, to needs in the church--those who are lonely, those who are hurting and those who need a friend and to know Jesus. Once our eyes are opened, then we can DO something about all of this, such as praying, talking with others and really finding out how they are doing, and stepping out in boldness with the name of Jesus on our lips.
Think of one way that you can reach out to someone who is unfamiliar to you. Ask God to give you His love, His strength to burst that Bubble and care for someone. Then, do it.