It’s common for a post to come up on my Instagram feed saying something like, “Avoid people who hold you back. Surround yourself with people who help you reach your goals.” It’s a popular sentiment, and there is definitely some super practical wisdom in it worth implementing.
That said, Jesus did not necessarily practice this philosophy very well. He left Glory to come spend His entire life on Earth surrounded by people who did not share His vision or values. He gave all His time, heart and energy to unhealthy, dysfunctional, toxic folks — many of whom did not even want what He had to offer them.
There simply were no other purpose-driven believers quite like Jesus for Him to share fellowship and accountability with. Nevertheless, He still worked on building deep friendships where He could (checkout Luke 7:33-34, Matt. 11:16-19, John 15:15). And He did so even if it wasn’t always clearly in His own best interest.
I worry that much of the Christian world today is insular, committed to building a subculture that stands in competition with the rest of society (rather than in service to all humanity). Some of us DO care about evangelism and missions, but mostly when it involves making converts that adopt our best doctrines, ethics & agendas. I’m not sure we always make an effort to live incarnationally — invested joyfully in long-term relationships with people who don’t believe and behave as we do.
Bill Johnson once said something like, “If what you offer only has any relevance within the boundaries of the Church, it’s not actually of Christ’s Kingdom.” I think that’s probably true.
Can the self-righteous label us a “friend of sinners” like our Master was accused of being? If not, it’s possible we’ve gotten off track somewhere. It could be worthwhile for us to rethink our approach to what it means to live in a truly consecrated, set-apart, Christ-like manner. HE is the model for what that looks like.