Don’t you just love those ridiculous commercials for prescription medicines where the side effects listed are worse than the actual sickness or condition you are trying to treat? I saw one the other day for a pill to fight a bump on your tongue, but then the guy who talks fast at the end said, “May result in facial paralysis or even death.” Now, I’m not a genius, but I don’t think that’s worth the risk.
Sometimes I think we treat the world the same way: that it’s not worth the risk. It’s not worth the discomfort I will feel if I engage this person. It’s not worth the possible rejection if I make myself available here. The side effects become more daunting in our eyes because we are not the ones feeling the initial sickness. Maybe that is the problem.
When we are out of touch with the world around us, we become numb to the pain, loneliness and hopeless worldview that we were delivered from when we found Christ. Not that all those things suddenly disappear when becoming a Christian, but there is a hope and a peace to be found in God that cannot be found in this world. And when we insulate ourselves and forget what it was like, when we disengage because we hate the side effects, we fail to view the world as God sees it.
The solution? Intentionality. I propose that one of the things needed is a willingness to be intentional with our time and efforts. We are so insulated from the world around us. If we were to truly be honest about our schedule and the way we spend our time, many of us would struggle to come up with any moments where we are interacting with the world. To break these patterns, I suggest a few principles to live by:
Consistency—Everyone has to run the same errands to the grocery store, the hair salon, the bank, the doctor. Most of us hit certain restaurants, coffee shops and other places of interest throughout each week. One of the best things you can do is go to the same places each time. To remain consistent, I attempt to always go to the same bank. Sometimes this means I have to go much farther out of my way, but it’s slowly becoming worth it as I am getting familiar with the tellers and am able to make more than casual conversation.
Make interaction personal—This becomes hard because it’s easier to use the ATM than go to the bank. And even then, it’s easier to sit in your car in the drive-through than it is to actually walk in. But the convenient way is also the most impersonal. If we are going to be intentional, then it means doing the things that will make us uncomfortable, take a bit more time and bring out the impatience in us. But it will also open doors that could never be opened if you sat in your car or used a computer screen to access your account.
Initiating conversation—While this should be common sense, sometimes we think it’s enough if we are just present, rather than doing the work it takes to ask someone about their life or their day. It’s easier to just conduct business and not pry or feel intrusive. We fear various things such as rejection, so it’s easy to keep it business as usual. And because we are in a hurry or don’t want to be bothersome, we just let the transaction take place without any real effort to find out more about who they are as a person.
Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. This means that the problem is not the world, but it’s the workers who are the issue. The world around us is not the illness; it’s the people who follow Christ, yet don’t engage the world that are the problem. Jesus promises that there is an entire harvest waiting if the workers would only be intentional and engaging.