Not long after moving back into our Temecula house, we totally rebuilt our back yard. A contractor put in a covered patio, then I took out the lawn and added pavers, took out dead trees and pathetic plants and put in fruit trees and other plants along the perimeter, added a garden shed, a waterfall, hanging lights, and a fire pit. Honestly, for this retired pastor/teacher, our backyard became a paradise I likely won’t exceed until I experience the final one.
But we noticed the temptation to relax there, almost to hide. So we started a front patio. We removed a lot of grass and plants, the old and small brick walkway, moved a five ton boulder, excavated down 5”, dug three footings for patio cover posts, put in, compacted, and leveled 2” of road base and 1” of sand, , laid 1600 pavers, then built a lattice patio cover, and added three areas for rose bushes. Why all that work when we already had a patio? The backyard provides a serene retreat for relaxing or having company, but we want to see the sun set over the mountains west of our house, AND to engage with our neighbors. We’ve already had over a dozen encounters, while either working on it or relaxing in it, and talking to neighbors as they walk or drive by. A dozen chances to connect we would not have received in the back. A chance to show Jesus.
In a growingly secular and sometimes antichristian society, we often face the temptation to withdraw. Let me suggest that we intentionally and deliberately and graciously invade the world that so needs the love and grace and purpose of Jesus. Or, be like Jesus. The part of me that desires security and comfort struggles with his prayer for us, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-17).
God sent Jesus into a world destined to destroy him. And he interacted. He went to the parties and hung out with disreputable people, for which he received abundant criticism. He then sent us into our world, with two aspects. First, may we interact with grace and love for people, not judgment. Jesus can handle that. Second, we don’t become like them. Jesus maintained his integrity. So should we, we can relate without becoming like.
Research reveals most Christians have little significant contact with unbelievers within five years of accepting Jesus. We play it safe. Maybe we should all have two patios.
Kick Starting the Agenda
Take a moment to survey your significant relationships. How many are with unbelievers? What have you done to increase those interactions? What has worked best? How can you best show Jesus in your life to these people? I encourage you to pick two or three neighbors or coworkers or those in your affinity groups (sports, quilting, bunco, that kind of stuff) and pray about how to grow closer. How to love them. How to show them Jesus. How to share a patio.