“Dad, stand up so everyone can see what I’m going to look like in 20 years.”
That’s how I introduced my dad during the devotional meeting at work. And it’s true. I’m going to look like him, which means I’ll look like Anderson Cooper or Steve Martin. Those are the two people folks always think my dad looks like. (At Lowe’s one day someone approached my dad nervously, because they thought he was Anderson Cooper, and if he was in town a natural disaster must be about to hit the area.)
After, what I think was a pretty awesome introduction by me, my dad and I got to hear a guy named Al Andrews talk about dreams.
Al wrote an amazing children’s book called The Boy, The Kite and The Wind. In his speech, he said, “A dream never makes sense. We’re supposed to have crazy dreams. If what you dream is fairly possible, it’s probably not the dream you’re supposed to have.”
It was a really inspiring/convicting message. My dad and I talked about it in the car later that day, and here is what he said:
“I think my dream is to get Christians to love non-Christians.”
My first thought was, “That’s kind of silly. I’m great at that. That’s not a dream. We already do love non-Christians!” But then my dad continued to share his idea.
“We think we do. We think we’re doing a good job at that, but how do you really show someone love? You spend time with them. You stand with them. You be with them. I think that’s a big part of what love looks like.”
And suddenly, I could no longer judge the validity of my dad’s dream. The truth is, by that definition, I don’t love non-Christians.
I started to look at my life and realized I don’t spend a lot of time with people who aren’t Christians.
I work with Christians.
I live in a neighborhood that is largely Christian.
I go to church with Christians.
I go to dinner with people from church.
I go to breakfast with Christians.
Save for the person who cuts my hair, I was shocked at how insulated I had become from the world. If spending time with non-Christians is one of the signs you love them, then I’m not doing a very good job with love.
Now the easy response to this is “Yeah, but you live in the south. It’s different where I live.”
And maybe it is. The south is considered the “Bible Belt” after all. But even when I lived in Massachusetts, I didn’t live my life that differently. I worked with a lot more people who weren’t Christians, but I don’t necessarily know that I spent time with them. I tended to be the kind of Christian who liked to pray for far off people in far off lands, to say “God, give me a mission field! Give me people to reach!” And then I would sit down in my cubicle completely blind to the reality that God had already given me people to reach.
There was a building full of them. They were my coworkers. But it’s easier to pray for fictional people or the people you meet on a one-week mission trip than it is to pray for the messy, 3D people you work with.
What’s the fix? What’s the solution? To tell you the truth, I don’t know yet. This is a fresh thought that is unresolved. But someone did tell me a story that I thought was pretty interesting in the context of this challenge.
My friend knew a father who wanted to reach his local community. He wanted to step out of his Christian circle and spend time with non-Christians. We often think that’s complicated or difficult, but he found a really easy way to do it.
Every Monday night he and his son, who had graduated from college, went to a local pub in their neighborhood. For three hours, every week, they sat in the same spot. Week after week, month after month, they sat and talked. My friend went with them one night and said it was amazing. In three hours, dozens of people at this local bar came and sat with them. They talked, they shared, they listened, and they became friends. Weddings, funerals, unemployment, all stages of life passed through that small booth, and slowly but surely everyone there learned that these two guys wanted to spend time with them.
When the son later graduated from grad school, the guys at the bar threw him a party. They had become family. Why?
Time = love.
It’s a pretty simple equation, and it’s one we see Jesus live out in the Bible. I’ve written about that before. Jesus was a pretty ineffective communicator by our modern standards. He could have been speaking to thousands of people on hilltops every night. Instead, he “wasted time” on slow, long dinners with a handful of people everyone looked at as sinners. Why? Because time = love. And Jesus knew how to love people.
How much time do you spend with people who aren’t Christians?