Today just after 5 pm I stood with a 41-year old man and his mother in the parking lot of a playground where my children had been playing with his. What made this particular moment unusual was that we stood hand-in-hand as he prayed for us. And it wasn’t a nice, short prayer.
After overhearing them speaking to each other, I had thought they were discoursing about evangelism. Surprised, I decided to briefly encourage them as I left the park, but they turned the tables on me by kindly sharing Scripture and gracious exhortation with me. As providence willed, in 1998 they had actually been to Malamulele, a village about 1 hour from my house.
Both son and mother were passionate about their Savior, Scripture, and evangelism, and I left with a warm heart thankful to God for fellow pilgrims who love Christ and aren’t afraid to open up a little to a stranger. “Exhort one another daily.”
One weakness of American culture is the unconscious individualism that keeps many of us from simply greeting a stranger with a smile and eye contact. Showing the value of friendship is kind of like proving to someone that a fire is hot—experience will teach them far more quickly than explanation. In the NT, friendliness is like personal responsibility, assumed everywhere even though there aren’t many proof texts.
This kind of initiative is dangerous because if you try it for any length of time you will get ignored, slighted, or tired, yet the payoff in strengthening other believers, discomfiting your selfish flesh, and opening up relationships with unbelievers should help to offset the liabilities.
Some conservative Christians are not friendly meaning they do not readily reach out a hand, a smile, or an interested question. But those who are friendly will be a sweet taste lingering long after they’ve left the presence of those they’ve befriended. Don’t you think Christ had that effect on many people?
This is one of your best entries. How much ministry could we as Christians successfully accomplish if we simply smiled at one another and initiated friendly conversation? It requires courage and energy to begin and continue a friendship, but this is how Jesus does it. He does not coldly hand out tracts or yell at anonymous clusters of sinners; he calmly moves about the market square, sparking meaningful discussion, or visits with folks in their homes or attends weddings, always looking for a way to incorporate the simple things of life into a broader spiritual message. Beautiful!