“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
A recent study conducted by the Barna Group found that many evangelical Americans have a difficult time striking up a conversation with people who are different from them. This struggle to communicate with people who are different from us is consistent across the board. The Barna study found that all Americans find it difficult to engage in conversations with people from groups that are different than theirs. However, what’s most striking is the discovery that evangelical Christians appear to struggle more than any other group in the study.
The Barna Group makes this statement in an article discussing the results of their study:
Nearly nine in 10 evangelicals (87%) think it would be difficult to have a conversation with a Muslim, but only two-thirds of those with other faiths (66%) report difficulty in conversing with evangelicals. Similarly, when it comes to speaking to atheists, 85 percent of evangelicals think it would be difficult, but again only two-thirds of atheists, agnostics, or those who do not have any faith (66%) say they would have a hard time talking with evangelicals.
The Barna Group also states, “almost nine in 10 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 10 in the LGBT community (58%) say it would be difficult to have a natural and normal conversation with an evangelical.”
If you find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people who are different from you, this study shows that you are not alone. The public discourse of late has made us more polarized than ever and polarization reinforces attitudes that keep us from reaching out to others. Of course, our enemy is well aware that polarization keeps us from sharing the love of Jesus with those who are longing to experience it. If we can’t figure out how to engage in “natural and normal conversation” with a person who is different from us, how will we ever earn the right to tell that person about the love of Jesus?
I think Jesus must have known our predilection for hanging out with people who are most like us. So, in the Great Commission, he reminded us that, while our sharing about the goodness of God may begin at home, our focus shouldn’t remain concentrated only at home. The words of Jesus invoke an ever-expanding set of concentric circles, inviting us to broaden our horizons as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, Jesus’ words remind us to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to rise above our uneasiness when it comes to talking with people who are not like us. That power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. That power lives in us, and the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the exact right words to say, no matter how nervous we might be.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Do you need to confess your discomfort with talking to people who are different from you? What makes you the most nervous about talking with people who are different from you? What kind of power do you think the Holy Spirit offers in these situations?
Lord, thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit. Fill me today with that power—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Without making anyone a project, let me be willing to talk with people who are different from me, as you bring them into my life. Let my interactions be “natural and normal” and let them glorify you. Amen.