Encountering Others

Journal Entry // May 15, 2023

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (ESV)

Matthew 5:46–47

In this passage, Jesus expands on his call for his disciples to love their enemies. He does this by setting before them two case studies. Two situations where the disciples, like us, want to stay in their comfort zone and areas of safety. Jesus points to our natural tendency to only love those who love us already and to greet only those we are already in community or relationship with. Jesus is calling us to something greater. He calls us to be just like him and break out of our day-to-day safe environments and encounter those who think differently, act differently, and daresay live a life in opposition to our beliefs and God’s law. Jesus, in calling us to love our enemies, is simply wanting us to live a life that emulates the life he lived while he walked among us. A life of bringing the gospel into every area of life; especially where it is most needed.

 This can be a challenging thought for me to put into action at times. It is easy to surround myself with like-minded people and only associate on a regular basis with those who are part of the community of Christ. With work taking so much of my time every day during the week, it is a matter of convenience to schedule and plan for community and fellowship with church-related activities. This is a good thing and something I should be doing. I should enjoy the fellowship of koinonia with my spiritual brothers and sisters. This is a very good thing. Yet, if all of my time outside of work and family is spent in the church, is that the best and proper use of my gifts and talents? Jesus here is telling me no.

Jesus is wanting more from my life than time spent in the community of believers. He wants me to encounter and engage with the lost. He wants me to encounter people who are in desperate need of the gospel. He wants me to do this for two reasons. One, lost people need Jesus. Whether they are in the most remote primitive location in the world or living next door or working alongside me, Jesus wants me to engage with all types of people to share his love with them and in so doing to introduce them to Himself. I don’t have to be a missionary to do missionary work. I don’t have to be in a foreign land to bring the gospel to the hurting and the suffering. I can do that each and every day through the relationship and encounters that God ordains for me. I just need to be open, ready, and humble. I need to be prepared to sacrifice my comfort, my time, and my desires at times. I need to be ready and available for Jesus to present me with opportunities to love others. There are so many hurting and desperate people in this world blindly walking around looking for the answer that only Jesus can provide. How will they ever know if they don’t encounter a follower of Christ? How can they be expected to be anything but an enemy, when they have no opportunity to experience a changed life through interacting with someone who has been spiritually reborn?

Second, I need lost people. I need to be challenged in my faith by the perspective that an unbeliever brings. It is a simple matter for me to only stay around people who think and act just like me. I can go through my whole life and never truly be challenged in my beliefs. I can choose to stay in my holy huddle among fellow like-minded believers and speak in Christianese terms that I sometimes don’t really understand and don’t really have to ever define and explain. But when I encounter an unbeliever or someone hostile to the Lord, then I can’t get away with speaking Christianese. I can’t get away with using words and terms that I think everyone knows. I must use plain words and explain what I believe. This is not only for the person listening to me, but it is for me. Do I really know why I think believer’s baptism is proper? Do I understand why I believe in the resurrection? Do I really understand why I believe certain things are biblical or unbiblical? When I’m talking to an unbeliever, I am not able to rest in the fact that my Pastor preached on this last Sunday or that my Sunday School teacher explained this from the Bible. I must own what I am saying and truly understand what it means to believe and live a life wholly to the Lord.

Currently, I do not have any significant interaction with unbelievers. I don’t have many opportunities where I encounter people who are enemies of God. It’s not due to a lack of opportunities, but due to a lack of desire.  I simply want to stay in my comfort zone and not be challenged in my faith. My life has been quite a spiritual challenge these last few years and it has been easy to seek areas of ease and comfort to recover. It is past time for me to get up out of my own Christian bubble and get around those who think and act differently than me. Lord, bring me opportunities and give me the faith to step out and engage with people in your love.

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