Few times in my life have I been surrounded by such a diverse crowd than the times I spent on the New York subway.
Technically that is probably not true, but when you’re stuck in a moving box feeling helplessly suspended in time, you can’t help but notice the people whose shoulders you are bumping into as you all wait to escape to your destination.
There’s the gay couple holding hands, the Muslim woman laughing with her three-year-old daughter, and the Jewish man wearing his shtraimel. You can't help but see the homeless man begging for money, and then feel slightly guilty when you ignore him. You overhear the group of teens discussing if Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth is hotter, and notice the lady falling asleep on her mother’s shoulder.
So many people, and all of them so different than the stranger they are sitting next to.
I didn’t speak to anyone I was trapped with, but somehow I felt a connection: We were just people who were all trying to get to wherever we were going, tired, at the end of a long day.
I remembered reading a study from the Barna Group which states...
“Evangelicals seem to have a particularly difficult time talking to those outside their group… nine in ten evangelicals (87%) believe it would be difficult to have a natural and normal conversation with a member of the LBGT community, but only six in ten in the LGBT community (58%) say it would be difficult to have a… conversation with an evangelical.”
The statistics were about the same when it came to Evangelicals socializing with practicing Muslims.
To a point, I understand this. I feel uncomfortable whenever I have to talk to anyone I don’t know. Sometimes, I feel extremely awkward when I’m talking to someone I do know. I’m just a very uncomfortable person in general. I feel like half my day is wishing I could have at least one conversation re-do.
In all seriousness though, I think these statistics are appalling. Nine out of ten evangelical Christians find having a normal conversation with someone who does not share their belief system uncomfortable.
Why is this? How did this happen?
If we as Christians are called to be a light unto the nations, how are we supposed to do this if we can't even "talk about the weather" with someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community?
Jesus ate with tax collectors, he spoke to prostitutes, and he even *gasp* had conversations with gentiles. So why are we not following his model?
Perhaps, the church expects too much from the world. We're quick to forgive our own children when they live with their boyfriend/girlfriend unmarried, but when our un-christian gay neighbor get's married we throw a fit that this world is ending.
We are quick to become appalled when the world does "worldly things" because somehow we have forgotten the world doesn't follow the same standards as us.
We shouldn't be surprised when the world sins.
Instead, we should always be pointing to Christ, unafraid to befriend others.
So next time you find yourself "appalled" by your neighbor, take a deep breath and remember we are all broken, and we are all made in the image of God. We can't ignore the people whose shoulders we are bumping into as we all wait for our destination.