Two of our grandchildren are heading off to college next year. While on vacation a few weeks ago with 23 of our family, I set aside some time to talk to these two, about to fly the coop, how they planned to build redemptive relationships at college.
Obviously, they were clueless about what I was asking and you may be as well. Here’s the gist of what I told them. It’s helpful for me to think of people outside of my family and very close friends as two distinct groups – followers of Jesus and not-yet-followers of Jesus. In the “not yet” category, these people can range from people who probably consider themselves Christians, to those of other religions, or no religion at all.
So, when I’m with other serious followers of Jesus, I can relax a bit and just enjoy their company. In many ways they just bless, encourage and refresh me.
However, when I’m with the second group, my attitude changes. Because when I’m with them, I’ve found I’m either the influencer or I’ll be influenced by them. So I gave my grandsons this illustration;
Next year you’ll undoubtedly be invited to a party on campus and it won’t be wall-to-wall Christians!
Unless you intentionally think of yourself as an ambassador for Christ, in an alien land, you will probably be tempted to “go with the flow.” And you’re probably going to be more influenced by them, than you will be an influencer to them.
However, if before you go, you have the spiritual maturity to ask God for the wisdom to build redemptive relationships, it will make all the difference in the world!
Redemptive relationships are friendships with not-yet-Christians for the ultimate purpose of pointing them to Jesus. I’m not saying you have to go to the party to evangelize people. But pray for guidance for who at that party, God may have appointed for you to meet – people who you can love and perhaps even help, who you don’t yet even know. It may be striking up a conversation with a person desperately looking for a friendly face. Or it could mean driving a drunk kid home just because it’s kind. It could also mean intentionally turning a raunchy conversation in a group of friends to something better.
In that environment, “you will either be the influencer or the influenced!”
I told them to use those opportunities to begin building friendships with a purpose – a redemptive purpose. That’s exactly what Jesus was doing when he hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes and materialists. He wasn’t bored with his disciples and just looking for a good time. He said this. “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.’” Matthew 9:10-12
A charge to my blog readers So what about you? Are you intentionally building redemptive relationships with not-yet-Christians? I’ll warn you, it could get messy. But if you do, and when you do, there may come a day when your not-yet-Christian friend thanks Jesus for sending you into their life. I heard the following quote recently, that I found to be a great reminder of our mission on earth;
“No Christian who claims to be serious about Jesus, wants to go to heaven alone.”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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