christian bubble

Exit 251. An unfortunate tendency to worship fads.

Sorry for the hiatus.  Life got really busy, and I knew this next post would be a big one, and I needed time to process.  I was also writing stories for my other blog during that time.

Former pastor Joshua Harris recently made an announcement that he and his wife of almost 20 years were divorcing, and that he no longer considered himself a Christian.  While I would be sad in any case of someone renouncing the faith, this one hit me a bit more personally.

As any long-time reader of this blog knows, or as can easily be discerned from searching the archives of this blog, I have some rather strong opinions about Mr. Harris’ teaching, particularly concerning his 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  This book, and others he wrote later, make the point that dating is un-Biblical and prepares people for breakup and divorce. Instead of spending time alone and giving into temptation and being fake with each other, Christian singles should spend time together on “group dates,” getting to know people in groups to see who they really are.  Then, eventually, through a mechanism I never understood, two of them will choose to prepare for marriage.

I became a Christian (or at least started taking what I believed seriously) about a year before this book was published.  No one ever taught me in childhood or my teen years how dating and relationships worked. I didn’t really see my parents doing coupley things very often; their relationship isn’t really like that, at least not in front of me (which is ok, there’s nothing wrong with that, everyone is different).  So after hearing a few talks at Intervarsity about not rushing into relationships and waiting until one is ready, and then learning about Harris-ism shortly after, I just assumed this was how all Christians lived. I didn’t know any better. So I really didn’t go on dates in college or my young adult years (except for a couple of awkward experiences which I thought were dates and the girl didn’t, but that’s another story for another time).

Mr. Harris’ books seem to be written for an audience of people who date frequently and even promiscuously, with selfish and un-Biblical intentions, but have now found Jesus.  (I should give the disclaimer that I never finished IKDG because I could tell about 100 pages in that it was crap, and I didn’t read any of Mr. Harris’ other works.) The main idea of IKDG seems geared toward explaining what is wrong with that aforementioned lifestyle, and replacing it with something at the other extreme that avoids the temptations therein altogether.  It seems to not even allow the possibility of the existence of someone like me, someone who wants to go on dates without having those selfish intentions.

If I followed Harrisism exactly as written, given who I was at that age, it would have looked like this: I’d meet a girl and eventually realize, for whatever reason, that I was into her and wanted to get to know her better.  I wouldn’t say anything, because Christians don’t date and that would be inappropriate. I’d hang out when our groups of mutual friends were doing things, but I wouldn’t be able to talk to her, because I’m an introvert, and I can’t just jump into a conversation without it being awkward.  I don’t read nonverbal communication well, so I would never get to know her, so the intended effect of hanging out in groups would never happen. She would end up together with someone else, because she would never know that I was interested in her. And I would never really get to know her, because I’d never have time alone with her where I really see people for who they are, and they see me for who I am.  According to Mr. Harris, this would cause us to be selfish and not real with each other, but my personality is just the opposite. I don’t look to be selfish when I’m alone with a woman, not at all. I’m just me.

Now if you followed Harris-ism and found a spouse and you’re still together, good for you.  I’m glad it worked for you. It worked better for you than it did for Mr. Harris himself, after all.  But not everyone is like you. Not everyone relates to people in the same way. And the Bible says nothing about the process of dating itself, so you have no right to judge people who don’t approach the world of dating that way.

Also, by the way, I predicted this in 2002.  In one of my other creative projects, I shared a story in which the character really likes a girl, but she read this book that is clearly supposed to be IKDG, and won’t date because of it.  The character later gets a chance to meet the author of the book, who goes on to explain how he followed his own advice and never dated his wife before he asked her to marry him. The character asks how that works, and the author and his wife end up in a huge argument when they realize that they don’t know each other at all, because they never dated.  They divorce.

A few years ago, Mr. Harris himself renounced his writing and apologized, saying that he never intended his writing to become a set of rules, the kind of legalism that has always infected the church to some extent.  And there have even been entire communities built around recovering from Harris-ism, and a documentary made on the subject. That’s a first step. At least he is aware of how his writing affected an entire generation negatively.  But I still feel cheated out of opportunities because of this artificially created fear and restriction. The satire news site The Babylon Bee did a great article on this, about people demanding reparations for all the dates they missed out on because of Mr. Harris.  I have never felt a satire article so deeply in my soul. Granted, I wasn’t good at dating to begin with, but I feel like I missed my chance to even try because of the way so many around me were brainwashed with Mr. Harris’ teaching.

I also don’t fit in with the communities of people who have vocally rejected Harris-ism, in terms of the kind of dating they look for now.  My views fall somewhere in between theirs and pure Harris-ism, opening myself up to rejections from both sides. Many single Christians today who have rejected Harris-ism now have views at what I would call the other extreme.  They would say that Harris-ism and purity culture in general don’t value women and treat them as objects. Women should be free to explore their sexuality, because society judges women more harshly than men on these matters. The Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.  One shouldn’t idolize virginity, and everyone sins and Jesus forgives so sex isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t believe any of that. The Bible certainly does mean what it says. Purity culture doesn’t treat women as objects, it teaches that our bodies aren’t our own because we belong to God.  Women are precious children of God, as are men. Society shouldn’t give women a free pass to be promiscuous; it should also be unacceptable, at least in Christianity, for men to be promiscuous as well (but being judgmental and gossipy isn’t ok for anyone either, of course). And the Apostle Paul specifically writes against using divine grace as a license to live a life of sin (Romans 6:1).

The biggest problem here is that Christians have an unfortunate tendency to worship fads, rather than the Almighty God Himself.  Some new Christian book, musician, celebrity pastor, whatever will come along, and all of a sudden all the churches wanting to be cool and relevant latch on to whatever this is, without even considering whether this new fad shows an appropriate level of spiritual maturity around which to build one’s life.  It should be pointed out that Mr. Harris was 22 when IKDG was published.  Fads come and go, and a few years later these people will latch on to something else. But I’ve seen many examples of former Christian celebrities renouncing their faith.

There was an episode of South Park that explored this topic, where some of the boys formed a Christian band because they thought it would be easier to get a big following as a Christian band than as a secular band.  It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but there was one scene where someone told them they needed to play a big Christian music festival. Someone said, “Just tell Christians what music to like, and they’ll buy it!” After hearing that line, I said, “That would be highly offensive if it weren’t so true.”  Christian music is full of flashes in the pan that disappear after one or two big albums.  I heard it pointed out somewhere that there are no Christian oldies or classic rock.  It’s not that uncommon to see kids born after 2000 wearing Beatles, AC/DC, or Nirvana shirts, but you never see Christian kids born after 2000 wearing Petra, Stryper, or Jars of Clay shirts, because everyone who listens to Christian music has moved on to something else (except me, occasionally; I still have a ton of Jars-of-Clay-era Christian music in my collection) (and, case in point, I still have never heard Petra or Stryper because the Christian world had already moved on from 1980s Christian music by the time I started listening to Christian music in 1996).

If Christianity is going to stay culturally relevant, we’re going to have to move away from this mentality of fad-following and start following Jesus instead.  It sounds simple, but one would be surprised. We’re also going to have to get away from this mentality of legalism. Sure, there are some absolutes in the Bible, but putting too many narrow rules on exactly what one should and shouldn’t do to honor God draws one’s eyes away from God and toward the pride in oneself for following the rules, as well as idolizing those who follow the rules.  And as for Mr. Harris saying he isn’t a Christian anymore, that’s between him and God. We should be praying for him.

So is it too late for me?  By the time I realized that Harris-ism was not the only way to honor God with one’s relationships and sexuality, it felt like I was in a place where there were no single Christians left my age.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve been through some stuff since then, and I don’t even know for sure what I’m looking for anymore. But being angry and demanding reparations, as the Babylon Bee article said, isn’t going to help at all.  

Exit 232. Pray that God will sort everything out.

I’m not as much into Christian music as I used to be, but I still play Christian radio on Sunday mornings on the way to church, to get myself in the right frame of mind.  This song from 2012 comes on sometimes.  Casting Crowns was never a band I really got into.  I was at a Christian music festival in 2004, and I heard someone from this band telling a story between songs about when he was a kid, and he said that algebra class was of Satan, so I decided at that moment that I didn’t like them.  But this song is really powerful.

And, to be honest, this is something big that I have always struggled with.  Even though I always knew that this wasn’t the point of Christianity, part of the attraction of Christianity for me when I started taking my faith seriously in my late teens was that these were people who also didn’t get drunk or do drugs or sleep around.  And that kind of mentality makes it really easy to be judgmental toward those who don’t have lifestyles like mine.

But that isn’t going to help the rest of the world know Jesus.  Telling people that they’re wrong and that they’re going to hell is not a way to recruit people to your cause.

It’s a difficult balance to strike.  Sin is real and should not be taken lightly.  But love is also real, and all of us are sinners and need to be treating each other with love.  And, of course, these days, with society so polarized, there are debates over what is and is not sin in the first place.

Like I said, it’s easy to be judgmental.  It’s a very real desire to want to be part of a group where I can feel like I’m living life the right way and not like the other people.  But all of that is so different from everything that Jesus promised.  That sounds more like the words of the religious leaders that Jesus condemned so harshly (Luke 18:9ff).

So how do I handle this?  When do I call out someone’s sin?  I don’t know, and there probably isn’t a universal answer.  All I can do is pray for wisdom and discernment, to know what to say to whom when.  And more importantly, I can just love everyone and pray that God will sort everything out, that God will speak to all of us about where we still fall short and how we can grow closer to Him.

 

Exit 172. But it isn’t pretty.

As a new Christian and a youth group leader in the ’90s, I listened to a lot of Christian music.  Since 2001, when I was no longer working with youth, that has tapered off, to the point that I do not recognize many Christian songs anymore other than the ones I hear at church.  There are a number of reasons for that.  I don’t have a social group at church that purposely introduces me to new Christian music.  I have also matured to the point of realizing that some Christian music just isn’t very good.  I can’t reverently express to Jesus how much I love him when singing or even hearing others sing phrases like “Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.”  (Besides, didn’t you people tell me back in the Josh Harris era that kissing was bad, because it leads to temptation and babies and stuff, so I shouldn’t even think about kissing until my wedding day?)

But, as unfortunate as this is, another part of the reason I haven’t been as much into Christian music is because sometimes I feel like I can’t relate.  A lot of Christian music is just too overly sappy.  Sometimes I’m feeling angry at the world, and there is very little angry Christian music.  I’ve even been told my some ill-informed Christians that the reason for the lack of angry Christian music is because anger is not a Christlike emotion.  (Right… I’m sure Jesus was feeling all happy and cheerful when he turned over the tables.)

The other day, I was in the car, and I heard a song that I realized sums up my history and experience with Christianity pretty well.  But it isn’t pretty.  And it isn’t a Christian song.

This isn’t a new song; it was released in 1991.  It isn’t a new song to me either; this was a huge hit when I was in high school, and it was on MTV all the time back when MTV still played videos for part of the day.  But apparently it has taken me over a quarter century to really appreciate the song.

New blood joins this earth
And quickly he’s subdued
Through constant pained disgrace
The young boy learns their rules

Late ’90s.  I’m a new Christian, and that’s great, but I’m quickly scolded by peers for telling dirty jokes and having lustful thoughts.  I learn the rules… there are cliques within the group.  Sometimes, from my point of view, the people who go serve Jesus in other countries during the summer seem more respected than those of us who don’t feel that calling, for example.

With time, the child draws in
This whipping boy done wrong
Deprived of all his thoughts
The young man struggles on…

Early 2000s.  I’m in small groups at Church I With The Problems where pretty much all we do is confess our habits of masturbation and looking at porn and talk about ways to stop that from happening, or have long discussions about exactly what minute of the night we should leave our significant other’s house so that other people don’t see us there and think that we’re having sex.  When I share my thoughts that maybe there are more important things we should be concerned with, everyone just tells me I must not be mature in my faith.

They dedicate their lives
To running all of his

A few years later.  I’m at Church II With The Problems, where everything I say or do feels micro-managed, and every slightly socially awkward behavior or comment is treated like a sin I have to repent from.

He tries to please them all
This bitter man he is

After I move in 2006, I spend the next decade trying to live the good Christian life, but only becoming more and more bitter, as I see others who didn’t live the way I was taught find happiness and success, and my own life leads me to be more and more of an outcast.

Throughout his life the same
He’s battled constantly
This fight he cannot win
A tired man they see no longer cares

This has been going on for many years.  I’ve been looking for a place where I can find other people who live the way I’ve been trying to.  But I can’t win, I’m not going to find one, because I’m not 20 anymore.  There isn’t a youth group for 41-year-olds.  I don’t know how to live in my current situation, and I’m becoming more and more tired and bitter about it.

The old man then prepares
To die regretfully
That old man here is me

And this is the direction my life is heading if nothing changes…

What I’ve felt
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never be
Never see
Won’t see what might have been

What I’ve felt
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never free
Never me
So I dub thee Unforgiven

Unforgiven… ironically, that is the complete opposite of the gift that Jesus Christ gives us.  Am I unforgiven?  Have I not truly received the grace of Jesus Christ?  I don’t think so.  But I might be looking for the wrong things.  I might be trying too hard to do all the socially acceptable right things instead of just living in the grace of Jesus Christ.

But that is not who God made me to be.  I don’t want to fit in that box.  But I need to figure out how to do that.  I need to look to Jesus, not church culture.

And if I’m now hearing God speak to me through Metallica lyrics, I suppose I’ve taken a step out of the box already.

Exit 83. I salute you, but you might want to stop dating supermodels.

Yesterday I was reading my Facebook news feed, and it caught my eye that Tim Tebow was a trending topic.  I wondered why he was in the news now, since that name has mostly disappeared from my consciousness, and I was intrigued by what the rest of the blurb said.

Let’s get a few things straight here.  First of all, “trending” is not a word.  “Trend” is a noun.  I’m using the term here because that’s what Facebook calls it.  Also, some of you probably never had the name Tim Tebow in your consciousness in the first place.  For those of you who don’t follow American football–and especially for you hypocrites who make a big deal of calling football “handegg” or “sportsball” and then get all butt-hurt when someone makes fun of one of your passions–Tim Tebow is a football broadcaster and former player.  A few years ago, he won two national college championships with the University of Florida Gators football team.  He was drafted by the NFL’s Denver Broncos shortly after that, and he became another in a long string of overly-hyped college football stars who fail to deliver at the professional level.  He had a brief run of successful games during his two seasons in Denver, then after being traded he never again really got his career on track.  But he gets a lot more attention than most college athletes who haven’t made it in the pros five years later, mostly because of his outspoken Christian beliefs.

The reason why Tim Tebow showed up in my news feed yesterday is because Olivia Culpo, his beauty queen girlfriend, broke up with him because he refused to have sex with her.  His Bible-based desire to honor God through abstinence and chastity are more important to him than dating a model.  After noticing something about the headlines, I read a few of the linked articles and blogs, and, like the headlines, they were all written in a pretty universally mocking tone, essentially making fun of Tebow’s beliefs with childish insults.  Some of these appeared to be from credible news sources, not just random blowhards and ignorami with blogs.

I’m not particularly a fan of Tim Tebow.  For one thing, he never played for my team.  And as much as I admire his outspoken faith and his philanthropy, I have to admit that at times he has been so outspoken as to make Christians look bad.  Saturday Night Live did a hilarious bit where Jesus appears to Tebow in the locker room and tells him to tone it down a little.  And it’s kind of annoying the way a bunch of teen and young adult Christian girls who never knew crap about football suddenly turned into Gators and Broncos fans because of him.  But I have to say I’m on his side on this one.

Some Christians tend to complain too much about persecution whenever they come across situations that involve the fact that some people don’t share their beliefs.  The fact that public schools do not lead students in Christian prayers is not persecution, for example.  I also wouldn’t call the media’s reaction to Tim Tebow persecution, but it certainly does expose the double standard and the anti-Christian bias in the mainstream media.  If these same journalists aimed the same kind of childish insults at a Muslim celebrity who made a big deal to stop what he was doing to pray five times a day, or a Jewish celebrity who made a big deal of not eating bacon, the journalists’ careers would immediately end in disgrace.  But it’s perfectly acceptable to make fun of a Christian, especially when it involves one who chooses to go against the secular humanist gods of sexual liberation.

Good for you, Tim Tebow, for sticking to God’s word and your values.  I salute you.  But you might want to stop dating celebrities and supermodels.  That’s just my advice.

I don’t mean to criticize Mr. Tebow’s life choices, though.  Let’s look at this from his perspective.  I’m speculating a bit here, I haven’t done a lot of in-depth research into his personal life, but, especially considering that his parents were missionaries, I’m guessing he probably grew up in a bit of a Christian bubble where most of what he was taught about dating and sex was simply “don’t.”  From the time he was in college, he was in the national spotlight for his athletic prowess, and now, at 28, he probably still doesn’t have everything figured out when it comes to dating and relationships.  I’m 11 years older than Mr. Tebow, and I’m still figuring it out.  I wrote recently about how I’m learning that the Christian bubble doesn’t work for me anymore, so I need to explore life outside of the Christian bubble, and figure out how to reconcile non-bubble socializing and dating with my Christian values.  Maybe Tim Tebow is doing the same thing right now, except in his world, socializing outside of the Christian bubble involves celebrities and supermodels.  At this point in my life, if I were in his place, if I were schmoozing with a celebrity woman and she acted like she liked me, I’d probably go on a few dates with her, and I’d eventually find some important issue on which our values were absolutely incompatible, and we’d have to go our separate ways.  I’d learn something from the experience, and I’d be glad that I tried and didn’t chicken out.

That could be what Tebow is doing right now, and it’s unfortunate that the drama has to be played out in front of journalists and paparazzi.  So give him a break, and let him stick to his beliefs and live out his faith, even if you don’t agree.  Tim can do better than Olivia.

Exit 80. The bubble has popped.

(Those of you who are my friends on Facebook have already read this.  I wrote this three days ago as a friends only note, because I was going to include some things that weren’t appropriate to share with the general public, but all of those details got edited out of the final version anyway, so I’m sharing it here too.)

I’m realizing some things about myself. I’m a lot more judgmental than I thought I was. It’s in my nature. I became a Christian at 19, and I’m sad to say that part of the attraction to me for the first few years was being part of the community derisively labeled “the Christian bubble.” Here, in Christianity, I found a community of like-minded individuals who shared my beliefs about God and Jesus, and many of whom shared my right wing political views as well. I quickly discovered that there was a Christian culture in which I could immerse myself, a culture of DC Talk and VeggieTales and Left Behind and WWJD bracelets where I could be part of a secret underground movement that knew the secrets to living right. Although I would never say it out loud, deep down inside I seemed to have this attitude that being part of this movement made me superior to those who weren’t. And the best part about it was that it was all approved by the God who created the universe… or so I thought. I aspired to a future in the Christian bubble. I would live a life of purity and celibacy until I met a woman who was also living in the Christian bubble, and we would raise kids in the bubble whose social lives would revolve around AWANA and Sunday school and church activities, and I could teach my kids implicitly that we were better than the heathens around us because we knew Jesus.

In my early 30s, I started spending a lot of social time around a new group of friends who I did not meet at church.  It was rather eye-opening for my social life to move outside the Christian bubble, but I always thought the best place for me was to live with one foot in the bubble and one foot on the outside. That way, I could pretend like I was reaching out to people outside of Christianity while still safely enough in the bubble that I could go about knowing that I was living better than the ways of the rest of the world, which just don’t make sense to me. And someday I’d find my way back to the bubble; this was my true identity, after all.

There are, of course, a lot of problems with this. For one thing, in the Christian bubble, you have to get married pretty young and start having kids right away, because that is how the bubble culture is perpetuated. That hasn’t been the path my life has taken. And life is changing. The bubble has popped. I gradually became less involved at church, as my peer group grew up and moved on. My demographic isn’t very well represented in most churches, and now I’m not even sure which church is mine anymore. I’m not going to find my way back to the bubble. And, more importantly, I know that the bubble should not be my destination. Jesus did not live in a bubble. He reached out to those on the fringes of society. And, while he spoke the truth, he also loved people where they were instead of judging their lifestyles. But many Christians want to keep their bubble. I don’t. That isn’t the path to maturity.

It’s scary, though. Being judgmental and staying in a safe Christian bubble, where everything makes sense and things that don’t make sense aren’t tolerated, is easy. But that’s not life. The bubble hasn’t worked. I’m not saying Christianity itself doesn’t work for me anymore, just the bubble. Life is changing. There are beliefs that I always thought I held that have never been tested, and they’re going to be tested now that I’m out of the bubble. It’s scary. But at this point in my life, the bubble is holding me back, and moving out of the bubble has been good. And it’s a move in the right direction. And it’s a move toward seeing the world the way Jesus does.

Exit 29. I need to know the world that they live in.

Recently, I was reading something posted by a friend who is currently a missionary with a different church.   In writing about trusting God during times of difficult trials, my friend referenced Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill woman whose assisted suicide was widely covered in the media.  My friend said that she didn’t know the details of the story, because missionaries in her church focus on the people around them, not on the news.  This seemed a little odd to me.

(By the way, I’m not writing this to argue in favor of or against Ms. Maynard’s decision to end her life.  I am also not writing this to argue whether my friend’s church is genuinely part of Christianity and whether or not my friend and her fellow church members are saved or not.  I know people with strong opinions on that, but this isn’t the time or place.  The point I’m going to make here applies to all branches of Christianity, and to some extent to viewpoints other than Christianity as well.  Let’s just leave all of these things between the individuals involved and God for now.)

Anyway, not following the news seems odd to me for a missionary, because if your goal is to help people and teach them that they need to know Jesus, then you should understand who these people are, where they are coming from, and the world that they live in.  Using the example of Brittany Maynard, a missionary, or a Christian in general, should understand that a lot of people find Ms. Maynard’s actions heroic and justified, and feel that taking one’s life when one’s health begins to deteriorate irreversibly is a brave and noble decision.  This view flies in the face of what many Christians and many churches believe, that life is given by God and should not be taken away in this manner; that God is found even in suffering; and that there is always hope that Jesus will heal even the most supposedly terminal physical ailments.  One who wishes to teach people that they need Jesus will need to meet these people where they are, because people who do not know Jesus aren’t moved by Sunday school reasons like not going to Hell.

I know some Christians who seemingly spend all their lives in Christian bubbles, without a lot of interaction with people outside of the body of Christ.  What I think bothers me the most about these people is how they seem to make such a big deal about all the secular music they don’t listen to and all the R-rated movies they don’t go to, as if that somehow makes them better than anyone who does.  I have a really hard time believing that Jesus is impressed by all that.  Jesus befriended sinners and spent time with them in their world (see, for example, Matthew 9:9-13) without participating in their sinful behavior.  He never went around and made a big deal about how holy he was, and some of his strongest words of criticism were directed at those very religious leaders who made a big deal of how holy they were (see, for example, Matthew 23, the whole chapter).

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with choosing not to engage in certain behaviors.  For example, I choose to abstain from alcohol because I’ve seen too many bad decisions made under the influence of alcohol, and I’ve seen alcoholism ruin too many lives.  But I’m not going to go around and act like I’m better than those who drink, nor am I going to try to change the behavior of Christians who do choose to drink in moderation.

For so many of these Christians in the bubble, their faith gets reduced to slogans and buzzwords that mean nothing to those outside the faith.  Why is Christianity right and other religions wrong?  “Because Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.”  Why do bad things happen to good people?  “Because God has a plan for you.”  Why do we believe that homosexual behavior is sinful?  “Because it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  I’d find it surprising if anyone was convinced to embrace these positions by hearing these slogans alone.  Those outside the body of Christ don’t see the faith-vs.-works dichotomy in the use of the words “religion” and “relationship,” because that slogan presents the distinction using words that don’t describe it well at all.  To non-Christians, it’s hard to understand God’s plan without seeing a context of how God has worked throughout the history of his people, and Adam and Eve are just mythological figures.  And kids who grow up with a faith as shallow as these slogans eventually will meet atheists and homosexuals who are genuinely nice people, and they will have their faith tested in ways that they can’t see God’s plan, and that is precisely what causes them to leave the faith.

During the time Cruithne, the ex-roommate I didn’t get along with, was tearing me down on a regular basis, he said that I was immature and weak in my faith because (among other reasons) I wasn’t out there bringing people to Christ, and I was wasting my time with non-Christian friends if I wasn’t trying to bring them to Christ.  Really?  My friends don’t like to be treated as projects, and my relationships with my friends go a lot deeper than that.  I spend time with my friends because I love and care about these people.  I’m going to be who I am, I’m going to continue to love these people as Christ would love them, and I’m going to bring up Jesus when it comes up naturally, when my friends are ready to hear.  Sometimes all these people need is to know a Christian who isn’t going to try to force Jesus down their throat or act like a self-righteous jerk all the time.

One time a few years ago, I was one of the few sober people at a raging drunken birthday party.  I was laughing really loud at something, someone was commenting on my reaction, and I said it was funny, because I was having the loudest reaction despite being completely sober.  The birthday boy, who had been drinking quite a bit, walked by at that point, overheard that one sentence, and said, “You know, it’s really cool that you can come hang out with us and not drink and still have a good time.”  God needed him to have that realization at that moment for some reason.  I can be a part of that world without becoming drunk.  I know some people can’t do that, because of their past; the temptation is too great.  But these people know that I am going to go have fun with them and not judge them for choosing to behave differently.

If I am ever going to share the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, I need to know the world that they live in.  I need to understand what their lives are like, what they experience, what drives them.  I need to know their fundamental beliefs and their views on the reason for existence.  And I can’t do that if I stay in a bubble.  I can’t do that without building relationships with people who don’t know Jesus.  And that is what confused me about my missionary friend’s post about not following the news.  I asked her about this, and she said that they ask the people they serve about where they are coming from and what is important to them.  So they do at least make an effort to reach people where they are, and that is important.  I still would prefer to know what is going on in the news, but I’m not in a place to tell my friend how to do her job.

This is still something I struggle with, though.  Cruithne has a point; even though I spend a lot of time around non-Christians, I don’t really spend much time talking about what I really believe.  This is probably something I need to work on.  And just so we’re clear, I’m not writing this as a cop-out, but I believe that all have sinned, that our sins separate us from God, and that only by believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior can we receive eternal life and reconcile with God.  Doing good works in Jesus’ name do not save us, but those should be the response if we genuinely believe that Jesus is Lord.