It costs to be a Christian, but it’s free to be like Jesus.
Although the pandemic keeps us isolated, I make an effort to meet as many new people as I can on a daily basis.
It’s not easy, and I’m not always accepted by the people I introduce myself to. But, if I get past their initial reservation of some random guy introducing himself, walls start coming down.
If you haven’t met a stranger lately, make an effort to.
It’s a beautiful experience.
One of the best places to meet strangers is our apartment’s gym.
Most people have a routine time they workout. With my flexible schedule, I intentionally try to workout at different times each day to increase the chances of seeing someone new.
I usually don’t approach someone the first time or two I see them; however, after seeing you 3 or 4 times, expect me to say hello.
For instance, after a morning workout a couple of months ago, my roommate and I decided to hop in the sauna.
When we opened the door, another guy was already in there. I had seen him a few times before, so we struck up a conversation with him.
This guy had tons of energy.
His enthusiasm energized us as he told us about his family and upbringing, his move from Minnesota to Atlanta, his job in the restaurant industry, and his relationship with his girlfriend. It all sounded great.
This guy’s life seemed pretty perfect.
We told him a bit about us, and ultimately invited him to come check out our small group on Friday. He told us he grew up in Catholic school, understands the value of being a good person like Jesus, and told us he would consider it.
I didn’t expect to see him on Friday, but at least he knew we cared about him and he was welcome anytime.
While in Louisiana over the holidays, I got a call from a random number.
“Hey Hamilton, what’s up? Remember me from the sauna?”
I did. And I could tell his voice wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as the morning we met.
“Sorry to bother you. Bro, my whole life came crashing down on me this week, and I didn’t know who else to turn to. I know you’re a man of God, and you’re the first person who came to mind. My girlfriend moved out of our apartment while I was at work last night, and I am starting to realize I might have a drinking problem. Do you have a minute to talk?”
We met once.
I didn’t preach to this guy, I just asked him about his life, told him about mine, and invited him to join us for Friday's small group.
All of a sudden, the guy whose life seemed like it couldn’t be better a few weeks ago is really struggling.
And I’m the one he thought to call?!
I talked with him for nearly an hour, and ultimately discerned he needed to talk with someone in person.
I called my roommate, Haden, and asked if he could meet with this guy. Haden graciously accepted and spent an hour or two with him that afternoon.
The guy called me back after talking with my roommate to thank me for connecting them. He also told me he would be in our small group on Friday.
Friday came, and he showed up like he said he would. I was very glad to see him.
We start each Friday off with highs and lows of the week. The guys go around and tell everyone what the high and low point of the week was for them.
This was the first Friday of the new year, and our group had not met for the past two weeks. A lot had happened in the lives of the guys in the group, so everyone was eager to share.
One person went, and then it was my friend’s turn. He spilled all the beans.
Instead of moving on to the third person’s highs and lows, the group decided to tend to this guy’s situation.
For nearly the entire rest of our hour together, our group asked intentional questions and offered biblical support and encouragement to our new brother.
It was arguably the proudest moment of my career as a small group leader.
Directly after the small group ended, I went to get him a Bible. I also gave him a Daily Guidepost devotional and a couple of other resources I’ve used in the past. Others in the group also gave their resources to assist him on his walk.
It was beautiful.
Since that day, my friend from the sauna has only missed one Friday small group, and he has already invited many others to join us.
One guy he invited also had a reckoning happen in his relationship recently, and guess who he thought to call?
My friend from the sauna.
Seems like everyone I run into at the gym now has already been primed to receive an invitation to our small group because my friend has already mentioned it to them.
It’s amazing to see how many fires one match can ignite.
While he is definitely on a faith high right now, I found it important to reinforce that the Christian life is not an easy one.
In fact, it is actually much more difficult than the life he is leaving behind.
But, any and all sacrifices he makes in Christ’s name is more than worth the pain or suffering he might endure as a consequence.
It costs to be a Christian, but it’s free to be like Jesus.
Salvation is free to all who accept it, but the cost of Christianity varies depending on your set and setting.
For some, the cost of Christianity is occasional rejection or mild persecution. For others, its torture or even death.
It's a great sacrifice, but we're not being asked to do anything for Jesus that he wasn't willing to do for us.
However much the cost of bearing the name of Jesus, it is completely free to be like Jesus in actions and in love.
It’s free to introduce yourself to someone.
It’s free to actively listen to someone’s story.
It’s free to invite someone to become part of a community.
It’s free to call or text someone to let them know you care.
It’s free to give someone resources you already own that might change their life.
It’s free to pray for someone each day for God to move in their life and in their heart.
Many other actions or attributes of Jesus are completely free as well.
We are called to give as freely as we freely receive. Salvation comes at no cost to us, but that doesn’t mean a price wasn't paid.
Our salvation cost God His one and only son.
If we are worth the life of Jesus to God, the strangers you see each day are certainly worth being like Jesus for God.
Your actions of love toward the world are free. The world’s reaction to that love is the cost of Christianity.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
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