by Rev. James Wong
Two weeks ago I ended my sharing by saying that as a church member we can all be proactive and spend some time connecting with the not so familiar friends or new friends who are with us on Sunday. Since they are here let us make them feel very welcome. Put on a smile and extend your hands of friendship. Everyone loves a friendly church.
I wish to reiterate that according to a US survey of 15,000 people done by Pete Gilbert 80% of Christians come to know Christ through friendship. The reason is very simple. A friend listens to a friend. A friend will trust a friend.
Was Jesus a good friend? Jesus was known as “a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!” (Matthew 11:19). When he made a decision to stay in the house of Zacchaeus, all the people who saw the incident commented that ‘he has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’” (Lk 19:15). What can we learn from these verses?
1. Mix with people. To be a friend we need to make ourselves available as a friend to others. The tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were people rejected and shunned by the general public. A tax collector was not allowed to be a witness in the court. Sinners refers to people who were thieves, robbers, extortionists, selling sex for money, corrupt officials, non-religious, conmen and etc. Jesus was known as their friends because he mixed around with them. Society avoided these types of people but Jesus made himself their friends. Don’t prejudge people but think well of others.
2. Christians without friends. The common problem of many church people today is that when they become Christians they have very few non-Christian friends. They only spend time with their church friends to the exclusion of other non-Christian friends. To live like Jesus did is to be connected to our friends outside the church. They are the ones that God loves and cares for and God uses you and me to reach them with His love. Usually it is because we are not willing to move out of our comfort zone or our couldn’t care less attitude that we have very few friends outside the church.
3. Who to mix with? Connect with our acquaintances outside the church, yes, those outside the church circle. They could be our relatives, neighbors, business associates, colleagues, customers, suppliers, subordinates, schoolmates, people in need of help, those who are going through suffering, the lonely, the poor, the under privilege and etc. The purpose is to share the love of Christ in a concrete way by being more caring, kind and loving towards them. In management, it is important to think outside the box. In the church, we need to think beyond the four walls of the church. In our personal life, we need to think beyond our circle of friends. Be a true friend to those outside the circle of the ‘holy’ like Jesus did. Be a friend of others.