“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory  and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone”. (Hebrews 2:9)

“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” (Hebrews 2:11)

By His suffering, Jesus identified with lost humanity. God became one of us, and experienced pain, temptation, weariness, hunger, loneliness. He hung out with folks whose lives were considerably less than perfect. His own apostles included a tax collector, some fishermen, and a political insurgent; in fact, the only ones He seems to have had a problem with were some of the religious ones who considered themselves better than that blue-collar rabble that followed Christ around.

Who do we identify with? Is it just the churchy people? Don’t get me wrong: we definitely need to get our batteries charged up hanging with our Christian friends. We know Him, and His Spirit indwells us. Our relation with God differentiates us.

But we’re still humans, and live in the same world Jesus did. He was called “the friend of sinners”. Do we think we’re better than our unchurched friends? I hope not. They’re on a journey just like us, and if God forgives us, it’s not because we deserve it, but because of who He is. I worry that we’re so busy standing apart that we’re sort of a non-issue to our neighbours. Jesus is just “our thing” to them and nothing more.

For yeast to work in a batch of bread dough, it has to be worked into the batch before it causes the whole loaf to rise. Christians are like that yeast, and we need to be worked into our communities and the lives of those we meet. We need to identify deeply with them the same way Jesus did, to get in the trenches with them where His love flowing through us really stands out.  Sometimes this takes us out of our cultural comfort zone: we might, you know, have to take a stand on things that wouldn’t be an issue when we’re just with our church friends. It’s easy to be a Christian when all the people you’re around believe the same way you do.

In the end, it’s all about loving people of all sorts, religious and non-religious, just because God made them – and that because of that, they matter.

I have a good friend who is involved with outreach to Muslims. I asked him how people functioned as Christian workers in countries where sharing the Gospel was a capital offence. His answer: “Just love them”. The rest often would fall into place when they saw the love and caring – no strings attached – that these Christians displayed. But to love them, you need to get into the place where you can speak into their lives, and that means getting to know them on all sorts of ordinary levels.

Real love (which is a choice, not a feeling) makes people notice. If you love with no agenda, sooner or later – sometimes years later – someone’s going to ask why you’re so different.