I read the craziest article just now. The statistics in it were shocking, and yet as I read the article I could see that they were sound, and revealed a blind spot for me. The stat?
20% of non-Christians in North America do not personally know any Christians.
That's right. Any. I highly recommend that if you are a Christian, you read this article...now. In fact, if you have to choose between reading it or finishing this blog post, read the article. Here's a link:
The Craziest Statistic
Considering that 80% of the population calls themselves Christian, what an astounding result! Now, the article talks about possible causes, including immigration. But when it comes down to it, the biggest reason is that so many of us Christians stay in a shell. We hang around with people just like us - like us in status, like us in income, like us in ethnic background, like us in religious beliefs. As the article points out, there is too much apathy about reaching out to those different from us, which means doing very little to befriend non-Christians. As Jeff Christopherson said in the article, "We hide in our evangelical ghetto." Or Gina Bellofato: "I don't know how many more million Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews need to come to this country before it becomes a priority."
Now, international missions is a major priority to me. If you follow this blog, you've seen post after post about how my heart reaches out to children in Africa and how I've traveled there four years in a row. Really, it's why I started this blog in the first place. And it's still true. God has called us to go spread his love and announce the Kingdom of his Son to the entire world.
But my goodness! Can we all just start by being a little more like Jesus where we live? Like Jesus, who was always being criticized for hanging out with people different from him. Like Jesus, who left the comfort zone of his father's carpentry shop to bring hope to the lost, sight to the blight, and freedom to the oppressed. He didn't have to go far - he just had to open his eyes and leave home.
Have you ever thought about the question Jesus was answering when he told the story of the good Samaritan? He had told the crowd the need to love their neighbors, and the question was, "Who is my neighbor?" And so when you see the story in the light of the question, the answer was...Samaritans. People different from you. Half-breeds who had stopped worshipping the one true God. That is who you need to love.
No, God doesn't call all of us to go overseas - either short or long term. So good news! There's plenty of Kingdom work for you to do right here. Because if only 20% of the non-Christians living all around us even know a Christian...well, there's plenty to do. And it all starts with just getting to know people - people who are different from us.
I am sooooooooooo lacking. I definitely have four fingers pointing back at me. So I pray that God would use this article to open my eyes, and see the neighbors - Samaritans if you will - who need to be loved. And then that I would love them.
20%. That's gotta change.