Many people who read the Bible for the first time are struck by the fact that Jesus had some very irreligious friends! When they threw a party, he was often in the middle of everything! Today, in contrast, believers in the Western world are often isolated in a restricted subculture and have almost no genuine interaction and impact on the wider society around them. But often this is coupled with an uncomfortable sense that we’re meant for more; we’re meant to be in the middle of everything!
There is a wonderful scene in the HBO film series “Band of Brothers” by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg that illustrates the believer’s calling to be “in the world but not of the world”, as Jesus put it. The drama documents the progress of a unit of the 101st Airborne Division in World War II. After the successful landing in Normandy at D-Day, the Allied forces moved swiftly eastward. But there was a sudden and devastating counter-attack that became known as “The Battle of the Bulge”. After being informed that they were probably going to be completely cut off, the Captain of the company said to the officer from another company who had told him the news, “Lieutenant, we’re paratroopers. We’re supposed to be surrounded!”
That’s exactly where Jesus said his followers should be: in the middle of everything. As he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane during his last night on earth he said to his heavenly Father: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Jesus’ followers are supposed to be surrounded! This means working face to face with those seldom touched by the message of Jesus, becoming their friends and sharing our life and the Gospel with them on their “turf”.