Now, let’s start this article with an allegory.
Imagine that there’s a single woman or man, who is a member of your church and a close friend. They have a strong desire to be married and to start a family, but the right person ‘just hasn’t come along’. By all accounts, they are godly, and you know they would make a great companion and parent.
One day, you find out that they are dating someone. Great!
When you ask them about it, you realise that they are dating someone who does not follow Jesus. They know very well that this is not ideal, but they are tired of waiting for a partner and determined to continue their relationship.
So here’s an interesting thought: why are we, as Christians, worried about our friend’s circumstances? And why is it seemingly ‘okay’ for us to worry, when the rest of contemporary society would accuse us of ‘being nosy’ and being ‘too involved in someone else’s business’?
My preliminary thoughts are: it’s because God’s mission is to save a collective ‘people’ and not individualised ‘persons’. This means that Christian living isn’t a ‘me, myself and I’ thing, but rather, it involves looking out for the collective and ensuring that we are all growing in the Gospel together.
Being part of a ‘people’ and a ‘household’
All too often, I think of my Christian walk as a ‘me, myself and I thing’. I worry about things like: How can ‘I’ address ‘my’ sins? What should ‘I’ be doing to honour the Gospel? How is ‘my’ relationship with Jesus?
However, by focusing on ‘me, myself and I’, I often forget the reality that my salvation is played out within God’s wider mission – I am one of many who are saved by the Gospel.
Ephesians, chapter 2, really helps illustrate this idea. In verses 11 to 22, Paul speaks to those who have been saved by the Gospel. He describes them with words such as ‘citizens with God’s people’ and ‘members of a household’. These words refer to a collective group of people and not individuals.
So, what does this mean?
So how is this different from the ‘me, myself and I’ view of Christianity?
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 14 to 18, Paul instructs a group of Christians to not associate with the ways of the unbelievers. At this point, it’s easy to think that doing this is a ‘me, myself and I’ thing. Once again, I could think along the lines of: How can ‘I’ address ‘my’ sins? How is ‘my’ relationship with Jesus? How am ‘I’ living like an unbeliever?
However, 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 12 to 30, makes it clear that we don’t have to fight those battles and work out those questions alone. Instead, Paul says that we are all individualised parts (‘hands’, ‘feet’, ‘ears’ and ‘eyes’) who collectively become one body.
On being part of this body means that no single part is able to say to the other, ‘I don’t need you’. Instead, each part is indispensable, having equal concern for each other.
Pauls says that if one individual part of this body suffers, or is facing the temptations of sin, then we will all suffer. Paul says that if one individual part rejoices in the Gospel, and is honoured for their works in the Gospel, then every part of the collective ‘body’ will benefit and rejoice.
Looking at the passages above, we realise that being saved as a ‘people’ comes as both a challenge and an encouragement.
The challenge? As mentioned in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 14 and 18, we are called to flee from darkness, to not live like an unbeliever, and to submit to, obey and reflect Jesus.
The encouragement? Well, there are really two encouragements. First, we know that we are ‘God’s people’ – people that he has specifically chosen to love and committed to loving. And second, knowing that ‘we’re all in this together’.
With this in mind, I am willing to care about my friend’s relationship with a non-Christian, and I would not be considered ‘nosy’ within the Church context, because God tells us as Christians that ‘we’re all in this together’ and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we’re all collectively growing in the Gospel.
Jia Pan Xiao attends GracePoint Chinese Presbyterian Church and is an employment lawyer working in Sydney. In his spare time, Jia Pan enjoys watching American sports, drinking coffee and devouring chocolate mud-cake.
Jia Pan Xiao's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jia-pan-xiao.html