Another interesting question my friend asked me this weekend was how my Christian friends would respond to me being good friends with an atheist. He seemed to think that this might cause some controversy.
He's definitely right that in some circles my having a close friend who doesn't even believe in God's existence would be a huge problem. Thankfully it's not something that my closest friends fear or don't understand.
It makes me wonder though where that controversy comes from. I definitely have belonged to Christian groups in the past where it would be a big deal. I think that in part it goes to a person's interpretation of being in the world but not of the world--that desire to be separated and holy and pure. Is there a fear of contamination or of allowing yourself to be corrupted by the world? I don't know. But I can't make that approach fit with what I know about Jesus, who sat with tax collectors and sinners and spent much of his time with the people that religious people despised. He was in the world but ever calling and inviting people into a deeper and more meaningful life of service and sacrifice.
And so on a daily basis I follow Jesus into the world and seek to love and listen to and serve people the way that I see he did in Scripture. I can't help but think of this song by Gungor...
I do find Jesus in the prisons and in the streets and with my non-believing friends. Learning to love and to relate and to listen and to serve calls me ever deeper into being transformed to be like Christ. Yes, sometimes it's difficult. Yes, sometimes it is uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes I put my heart and soul at risk. But I'm not happy with the antiseptic life that's lived within the walls of a Christian community that will not reach outside of itself. I have been there too, and I have found that life wanting and more dangerous than anything I have encountered on the outside.