Could you ever be accused of being anti-social? What images come to your mind when you hear that term? The dictionary definition of anti-social is to be… “antagonistic, hostile, or unfriendly toward others; menacing; threatening; unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people.” While this is something most of us would never desire to be, Christians are more and more being defined by this term. Sadly, this charge is not totally undeserved or unwarranted. Let me illustrate.
In what can only be termed as “bizarre,” a few weeks back during Super Bowl weekend, a group of people from a church in the Midwest flew to Phoenix. They were on a mission. No, they did not come here to catch the game, but they certainly came to town to make some noise. What did they do? They intentionally boycotted and picketed churches in the Phoenix area as people from those churches were gathering on Sunday morning to worship. Yep, Christians from another state flew here to let the believers here know they didn’t approve of them. Who does stuff like this? Does this qualify as anti-social behavior?
Sadly, the world has long ago determined that the nature of Christians is to be hostile and antagonistic. Those outside the church have watched and they have listened. Tragically, the church in America has become known and defined by what it is against, instead of being known for what it is for. So, in response, the world has decided to keep its distance and marginalize those who claim to follow Christ. They clearly see us as anti-social. Frankly, this is not hard to understand. Surely, when it has progressed to the point where Christians are intentionally being antagonistic to other Christians, something has gone very wrong.
There has always been a tendency in humans, for those who think they are enlightened, to want to flock together and exclude all who are not as illuminated. The world certainly does this, but is it ever appropriate for the church that Jesus founded to do so? Are we to huddle up and consciously exclude all who are not “one of us?”
Let’s go back to the world Jesus lived in. As you probably know, there was a prominent religious group who went by the title of Pharisees. The term literally meant, “separated ones.” They prided themselves that they were not like other people, and they set up all kinds of rules to keep themselves away from the rest of humanity, and vice versa. They simply saw themselves as better than others. If this isn’t an illustration of being anti-social, I’m not sure what is. Today we use the term “Pharisee” in a derogatory manner, but then it was a badge of extreme honor. Interestingly enough, there was no group who Jesus collided and conflicted with more than this one.
How did He handle their tendency to think they were better than everyone else? He simply refused to play by their rules. For instance, in the Gospel of John we see Jesus travelling through Samaria and stopping at a well. Doesn’t look too provocative, does it? But what he did was totally provocative! You see, Jews (especially those who saw themselves as superior ones…Pharisees) would never enter Samaria. For lots of reasons we won’t go into, they felt themselves superior to the Samaritans, so instead of going through Samaria, they would avoid it completely and circumvent it whenever they had to get to the other side. But Jesus walked straight into it (inappropriate place), and then He hung out there and got into a very interesting conversation with a woman (inappropriate person) who lived there. You can read about it in John Chapter 4. What is most intriguing about this is what it is says in verse 4. It says Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Had to? Why did He have to? Others certainly didn’t think this. He did.
You see, Jesus intentionally took His disciples with Him on this little venture. They were shocked by it and it all seem scandalous to them, but Jesus “had to” do this. Why? Simply to explain to them (and to us) that if we were going to be true followers of him, anti-social behavior would never be tolerated. We are not called to see ourselves as superior or to separate ourselves from others into holy huddles of the righteous. Instead, we are called to be salt and light. Salt and light only impact by contact, not by exclusion!
So, at the end of his life, Jesus commissions his church to go into the entire world (Matthew 28:18-20). Listen carefully to his words as recorded in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Did you catch it? Where are we to go? Even there? Yes, even there! Jesus never called his church to be anti-social, rather to go wherever there are people and bring Christ to them. This we “must do!” We are clearly NOT to keep our distance!