“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” – Ephesians 4:16.
Christians, non-believers, and people of other faiths have always had something in common. Believers and non-believers can have meaningful dialogue and can make meaningful personal connections by virtue of what we have in common. We are all created in the image of God. We have common basic physical and emotional needs. We all experience similar joys and trials in life. We can connect with non-believers by simply asking about their lives and listening to them. The basic similarities always surface and they foster human connections.
God expects believers to make a connection with unbelievers. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone….” Jesus spent a lot of His time connecting, and He wasn’t connecting in church groups. He wasn’t connecting just with His disciples. He was connecting with the sinners and the tax collectors. Jesus spent a lot, maybe most of His time, with people who were far away from God. The religious people of His day were talking about Jesus because He was connecting to people that didn’t have God at the center of their lives.
Christians can develop some biased perceptions in the way they view others and vice-versa. But as Christians, we need to refrain from going into a conversation with closed minds. Learning from non-Christians can help Christians more honestly engage in dialogue with a deeper understanding of what others believe. When someone feels like they are understood, they begin to lower their walls and let new ideas in. By taking a step back and genuinely listening to someone else’s situation, one will begin to learn much more. You might never agree with someone’s position or agenda, but you can almost always demonstrate the love of God.
The Apostle Paul was a great example of knowing other cultures and understanding where they came from. He used his knowledge of cultures and backgrounds to build common ground between the people he sought to lead to Jesus. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 says, “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” Paul spent large amounts of time living and working among the people, building common ground and using that platform to speak about the kingdom of God.
The hard truth is that the world is a pretty complex place and there isn’t a universal solution for every problem. Societies and cultures differ in almost every way, and one set of rules doesn’t always work for everyone. Christians need to become open to listening and learning from everyone they interact with, trying to avoid the mistake of isolating themselves in a Christian-only environment. Believers should never compromise their faith, but can’t ever be so closed-off that it pushes everyone who is even slightly different away.
- Is it alright to have close relationships with non-believers? Why or why not?
- Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. We, like Jesus, need to be intentional about trying to connect with those who likely won’t set foot in our churches: Agree or disagree and why.
- Where in your life are you connected with others, such that you could influence them through your faith? What keeps you or others from talking about God or sharing the Gospel?