Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Christ and the Unbeliever

I’m in a series right now called Relationships in the Real World.  There should be a distinctively Christian way to treat people, and we’ve already talked about how God’s people should relate across the genders, how we should see children, and how we should treat people of other faiths.  But what about people of no faith at all?  As you surely know by now, that is the fastest-growing segment of our country today.  In the old days, every town had its village atheist, who the local pastor would doggedly pursue, like Ahab hunting his white whale.  But nearly everyone else was either a church member, or had an innate respect for religion.  Today is different.  An increasing number of our neighbors have no religious affiliation at all.  They fall into a number of categories.  Some grew up in religious homes, but have drifted away for a variety of reasons. They still believe intellectually, but simply don’t have any tie to organized religion.  Some have no faith background at all.  They come from a legacy of unbelief that is one or two generations old, or more.  Most aren’t hard-core atheists, but those who are have an exponentially louder voice in society today.  This means it’s very common to read articles or hear statements or see presentations on TV or the movies which question, ridicule, or even reject the core tenets of our faith.  Many others may not be actively hostile to Christianity; they just never give it a thought. 

 These people are our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends and our relatives.  They are people for whom Christ died, precious children of our Father, whose heart weeps for them, whose Holy Spirit pursues them tirelessly.  And if our Scripture is true, none of them will experience life as it was meant to be lived, and all of them will spend eternity apart from God, unless someone introduces them to Jesus.  And that won’t happen without us doing something.  They won’t come to our worship services--unless one of you invites them.  They won’t watch a religious TV program (except to make fun of it) or randomly start reading a Bible.  The Jesus they see in you and me is the only Jesus they will ever meet or hear about.  I want you to think about one of these people.  Say their name in your mind; picture their face.  What are we supposed to do?  Colossians 4:5-6 tells us.  This is Paul’s final instruction to the church at Colossae; after this, the letter is made up of personal greetings to his friends there.  And Paul was writing from prison, so he was measuring his words carefully, not knowing if he would ever have a chance to say these things in person.  What would Paul say to us about relating to unbelievers? 

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