A dating website has recently launched an advertising campaign, claiming boldly on the tube that ‘Christians make better lovers.’ (I hope it’s true, I’m getting married soon.) But the point of the poster is to advertise a service, not Christianity in general and the fact is that more and more people are meeting online through dating websites, and it seems many Christians only want to date other Christians. I get it – to a certain extent. I would only want to date people with the same values as me; people who have a similar outlook on the world and at least some overlap in life plans, and of course faith is a big part of that. But is it the be all and end all?
I got off the bus recently late at night and found someone crumpled up on the pavement, seemingly injured. I stopped to ask him if he was ok, realised he wasn’t technically injured but inebriated so checked he knew where he was and helped him to the bus stop. I walked away.
My soon-to-be-husband (I can’t quite get used to the term fiancé), realising the guy didn’t make it onto the next bus, walked me home and went back out to check on him. He waited with him, talked to him to make sure he knew where to get off the bus and helped him on his way. I made myself a cup of tea.
I’m the ‘Christian’, my S-T-B-H is an atheist. I sat drinking my cup of tea and realised that I was the Levite and he was the Good Samaritan. Ok, so Mr. Inebriated had brought his situation upon himself a little more than the man who was walking down from Jerusalem to Jericho. But I was pretty happy to walk on by and S-T-B-H was not.
And ultimately, that’s why I’m happy to marry an atheist. Because Jesus didn’t care so much about whether you went to the temple or followed a ritual. He cared whether you stopped to help those people who have been forgotten by the side of the road.
A good friend recently recalled that when she had first started going out with her boyfriend, someone from her church house group had told her that there was no future in her relationship; because new boyfriend was not a churchgoer. Turns out new boyfriend had been thinking about going to church again but heard that he wasn’t considered acceptable and decided church wasn’t really something he wanted to be a part of.
Is that the Church Jesus wanted? A Church that makes people feel unwelcome before they’ve even stepped through the door? My vicar reminds us fairly often that Jesus didn’t come to start a church at all; he came to bring the kingdom, and ended up with the Church. There are plenty of kingdom-bringers out there; they just don’t all call themselves Christians.
Maybe I’m just trying to justify all this because I happened to fall in love with a non-Christian, and my human arrogance wants to believe that God is ok with that. But there is only one definition of God that works for me; God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, so maybe we should stop trying to limit the people we might fall in love with. After all, God loves S-T-B-H more than I ever could.