Babylon, an ancient city in the Bible known for its wickedness, has become a symbol for all that is in rebellion in any culture, against the one, true God.
Active grace and truth are the lifestyle pillars of every Christian who longs to be light and salt in an ever-darkening world.
Is it possible you or your family are the only believers that some lost people know? That you are the only one that lives or works near enough to them that they can watch your walk with God? Think about the people in your workplace, neighborhood, school, or apartment complex. Often the most annoying people in our lives are the ones that need Jesus the most.
So, what do these folks see when they watch you and your family and friends? Is there a difference between the way you speak and act from the way they do? Do they see the love and grace of God poured out into the stresses of your daily life? What do they hear floating out your open windows or from your backyard? Are they hearing the sounds of Babylon or the kingdom of Heaven?
As far as neighborhood influencers go, my parents were aces. We lived on a street in Philadelphia packed with rowhouses, with little postcard sized front yards and connecting front porches. If you needed company and conversation, all you needed to do was sit on your front porch. People visited side to side across their little railings and hollered back and forth with neighbors across the street.
My mom and dad, Elwin, and Louise Skinkle, became a part of the ongoing neighborhood conversation as soon as we moved in. My introverted Dad never yelled across the streets, though. Instead, he would talk cars with any guy who noticed him working on our 56 Chevy and was willing to stick their heads under the hood with him. Conversations about God and the important stuff of life happened under the hood of that Chevy, between my dad and guys from the up and down the street. Elwin came from reserved Michigan folk and probably experienced massive culture shock while we lived in that raucous Philly neighborhood. He did not retreat from it, he embraced it in his own unique, God-designed way.
He was the only Dad on the street who did not shout for his kids to come in for dinner. He whistled for us using a customized three note tune that was unmistakable and brought us running. That became a conversation starter too with the other Dads. In the backyard, Elwin was ahead of his time with efficient container gardening, another neighborhood novelty he created. His lush tomato and cucumber plants invited people passing by to linger by our yard and chat with him about gardening, parenting, and life in general. My Dad did not work hard to fit in, he simply opened the doors and windows of his life and allowed others to come close.
Now my mother, Louise, was 100% extroverted and thrived on the numerous daily chats she would have with neighbors and if that didn’t happen by chance, she’d invite people over for coffee. When she sent my brothers and I out the front door to school, she often sat down to talk to Mr. Stuart, a lonely widower next door who was usually out on his porch by then. Hanging laundry in our backyard always created opportunities for catching up with neighbors as far as three yards away. (Tiny, tiny yards) During the summer months she kept pitchers of Kool-Aid and dixie cups on the front porch for any neighbor kid who needed a drink and a little shade. She loved children and they felt safe around her, sometimes sharing the sorrows of their own homes with her, in confidence. Teens from the neighborhood would stop by on their way to prom because they wanted Mrs. Skinkle to see their gowns and hairdos and take a picture with her.
Our family lived in a small house on a tight budget yet my parents’ generosity with the little they had and their simple kindnesses to people, opened doors of relationship. Elwin and Louise led four or five of our neighbors to the feet of Jesus and two of those neighbors brought their whole families to Christ and began attending our church with us. A son of one of those families married my best church girlfriend years later after I moved away. Interestingly, my girlfriend and her family came to Christ when I was a child through a relationship with their next-door neighbors, my grandparents. See what God did there?
Remember at the beginning of this piece when I said that it’s often the obnoxious folks that need Jesus the most? I do not want you to romanticize what my parents accomplished without understanding the nitty gritty of what it means when you start seriously mixing it up with worldly folk, trapped in Babylon’s systems. A lot of the language and behavior of our neighbors was rough. Sometimes, my dad had to ask folks to tone it down if my brothers and I were near. Let me tell you about one neighbor they led to Jesus who could not have been more opposite from my parents in every way.
She’d cuss out bullies and grab them by the shirt collar to haul them home if they weren’t fast enough to see her steaming towards them. When we kids played capture the flag in the street, she would yell at us when cars were coming and then scream at the drivers if she felt they were going too fast. She smoked like a chimney and usually had a bottle of alcohol enhanced Pepsi in her hand.
My mother found ways to connect with Susie, even when Susie teased her about her fashion and hair choices, Susie being a shapeless housedress and slipper kind of gal herself. (Louise dressed and looked like Jackie Kennedy.) My mom kept inviting Susie’s son to come to Vacation Bible School, even though Susie refused to let him go every year. I was just a little kid, so I do not remember many more details of how my mom built that relationship, but Susie was the first neighbor my mom led to Christ. And that, I remember.
The transformation in Susie amazed the whole neighborhood. I do not know how many people Susie brought to Christ besides her family, but I’ll bet she planted a lot of seeds.
In the next post I want to share some ideas of ways you can connect with the lost around you along with some observations on the ways Babylon schemes to keep Christians and their families from connecting with the unsaved.
Today, would you think about these two questions?
What are you doing right now to purposefully engage with lost people?
Are you willing to let God point people out to you and then follow through with some actions? (If you are willing, he’ll drop creative ideas in your head and create opportunities for you to intersect with people.)
I recently listened to a Bible teacher who emphasized God’s habit of picking underqualified or undervalued people to do big stuff, people like Moses, David, and Gideon. The teacher even pointed out that Jesus himself chose a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem, not a nice horse, or even a camel, but a lowly, undignified donkey. There is nothing arresting or inspiring about watching someone ride a donkey, in fact I think it’s a humbling ride.
The speaker said that Jesus is still looking for donkeys, people who will say, “I will carry you Jesus, wherever you want to go.” God does not evaluate and select people the way Babylon does. Babylon will always choose a stallion for a grand entrance, but not Jesus. He looks for willingness and availability. Jesus is asking you and I today, “Will you carry me to this person here, and that one there?” Are you willing to carry him to someone today?