A Christian radio station for Sioux County has a station promo out in which a young lady who has just begun her sophomore year of college after transferring states, “It is just such a blessing to be surrounded by Christians.” As I was listening to her story one night, I nodded along in agreement. It truly is a blessing to be able to attend a school where the vast majority of students and professors proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But I began to wonder, is it really a blessing to be surrounded by Christians all the time?
The most striking example that came to mind when I thought about this question was Jesus. The Creator of the universe loved His people with such passion that He sent His Son to live and breathe and walk among His creation, and to teach His people how to love and serve the Lord. And in the midst of all His leading and preaching, Jesus spent a great deal of His time hanging out and sharing meals with people society considered to be the scum of the earth: liars, prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, lepers, sinners.
Of course, Jesus’ actions angered the Pharisees, and, in the book of Matthew, “they asked his disciples, ‘why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
His answer threw the Pharisees for a loop, and I think that often times, it throws us for a loop, too. Sure, Jesus came to call sinners. He came to do His Father’s work in radical ways that would change the lives of unbelievers, and He did. But where does that leave us as Christians? Where did that leave the Pharisees?
Paul, in Ephesians 2, writes, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” It’s clear to Paul that both Jew and Gentile are part of the church, or the Body of Christ. Jesus came to call sinners to salvation, and welcoming them into the Church was just one part of His mission.
This is where my trouble comes in. Because, like the Pharisees, I do not really want my close circle of Christians friends to be disturbed by sinners either. The fact is, ‘sinners’ would not understand the implications of my story and who I am. I feel like I would lose a lot of my authenticity and desire to share the gospel among my friends. That is, the Christian ones. Who know the gospel.
When we are surrounded by other Christians all the time, we start to lose our desire to share the gospel with those who do not already know Christ. When we are trapped inside our little Christian bubble, we lose sight of the secular world around us that screams news of more violence, inequality, hatred, poverty and sin every single day. And we do not hear them because those walls we build up so carefully around us deafen the cries from the outside. Sometimes we might catch a glimpse of the mushroom cloud of a far-off explosion, and we might think to pray for those people and that situation in passing. But inside our fortress, we have assembled good Christian friends as barriers and filled in the cracks with Facebook Bible verse posts and Christian t-shirts as our measly attempts to share the gospel with those outside our walls. We are safe in there. We have to protect ourselves. But we are missing those on the outside of the bubble.