|DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE MAGNETIC?
My Dad was a shipyard worker and one day he brought me home from the yards what became one of my very favourite toys, two magnets.
I was young and easily amused, now I am middle aged but still easily amused. I was fascinated by these magnets. What particularly fascinated me was that they could both attract and repel each other. When I put them one way they clamped on to each other and I could hardly pull them apart. if I put them the other way, my young arms couldn’t push them together no matter how hard I tried. Magnets exert this power to attract and repel, so do we as Christ followers individually and collectively as the church. Our lives and the way we treat each other can either attract people to Christ or repel them from Christ.
Jesus’ marketing plan, if I can call it that, for the Kingdom of God seems pretty risky to me. Jesus decided rather than putting the Gospel up on hoardings, or running a tv Ad campaign, he would instead embody it in human lives for people to see firsthand. Its in and through our lives and our relationships in the church that the intangible becomes tangible, the Kingdom of God becomes visible in and through us. Through our lives forgiveness becomes observable, loved becomes experiential to those around us. We, as those who claim to have been saved by the Gospel, have to be Good News before people will listen to our presentations of the Good News. Actually, the only Gospel presentation most people will ever see and hear will come through your actions and words.
The number one reason that I have heard for people rejecting the Gospel or not even being willing to hear it is that they have been repelled by the words and actions of people they know who claim to be Christians. A large survey was done a few years ago in Australia about non-Christians attitudes to Christians and the Church, this was one of the main conclusions
“It’s a sobering picture. Our behaviour – and the church’s behaviour as a whole – can (humanly speaking) prevent people from even exploring Christianity.”
Yet the same survey also said “The take-home message is simple but profound: the genuine faith of your ‘ordinary’ Christian life makes the gospel more attractive”
I came across a quote from a book that is just about to be published that has really been going round and round in my mind . Here it is
” What would it look like for us to become those who live most beautifully, love most deeply, and serve most faithfully in the places where we live, work, and play?
What would it look like, as Tim Keller has said, for us to live so compellingly and lovingly in our neighborhoods, cities, and nations that if we were suddenly removed from the world, our non-believing neighbors would miss us terribly?
What would it look like for Christians to become the first place people go for comfort when a life-altering diagnosis comes, when anxiety and depression hit, when a child goes astray, when a spouse files for divorce, or when a breadwinner loses a job?
What would it look like for a woman with a crisis pregnancy to see the local church, not the local clinic, as her trustworthy source for love, non-judgment, practical support, wise counsel, and much-needed encouragement?
What would it look like for the local church to become the most diverse and welcoming-rather than the most homogeneous and inhospitable-community on earth?
What would it look like for Christians to become not only the best kind of friends, but the best kind of enemies, returning insults with kindness and persecution with prayers?
What would it look like for Christians, en masse, to start loving and following the whole Jesus and the whole Scripture, the whole time, into the whole world?”
I know what it would look and feel like, magnetic!
I believe that people would be drawn almost irresistibly to people and a community that lived like that. Its what happened in the early church. The Early Church didn’t raise an army and conquer the Roman Empire with violence, they subverted it with love. They loved the children that were thrown outside the city walls unwanted, they brought them into their homes. They loved each whether they were rich or poor, powerful or powerless, master or slave. They cared for the sick and dying even when they had been abandoned by their own families. Men and women segregated everywhere else were told in the church they were equal.
Justin Martyr. one of the Early Church Fathers described the magnetic community he was part of like this “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.” Is it any wonder, even with the threat of persecution or ultimately death, people were drawn to churches like Justin’s?
Running Alpha courses, holding evangelistic events, giving people books about the truthfulness of Christianity, all of those things may be good but the single thing that will either attract or repel people when it comes to Christ is my life and your life and our life together. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to be magnetic people, a magnetic community who through the lives we lead, the quality of our relationships and community draw people irresistible to our Saviour and Lord.