There is nothing wrong with having people in your life that make you feel comfortable. I would argue that having a really close group of Christian friends is vital for a healthy Christian walk. I also believe that spending close, intimate time with non-believers is essential for ministry. So if you are comfortable doing either or both of those things and you are comfortable with how Christ uses you there, have at it.
Spending time in our “comfort zone” can become a problem, however, when we start playing favorites. I could probably list 5-6 people that I am guaranteed to talk to each week at church. I have a few coworkers that I spend much more time with than others. I have neighbors that are friends, and I have “smile and nod” neighbors. I play favorites, and that is not good.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:1-9)
I realize this scripture focuses on favoring the rich over the poor. And while I believe that is still true today, I think this passage applies universally. For what other reasons do we show favoritism today? We favor people that are more like us. We favor people that look like us, those that talk like us, those that dress like us, those that have similar incomes, those that favor us, those in our own church denomination, those in our age group, those in our Sunday school classes and small groups, those with similar hobbies, those with similar ministry interests, and we favor other Christians over everyone else.
As I mentioned earlier, I am as guilty of this as anyone. It is difficult for me to get outside of my comfort zone and spend time with people that are different from me. But in order to effectively spread the gospel and love as I am commanded, I need to be better.
I need to spend time with the elderly in my church.
I need to hang out with people of different income levels.
I need to get to know folks involved with ministries with which I am not familiar.
I need to learn to play golf, or skateboard, or something else I have never really done before.
I need to hang out with Methodists, Pentecostal folks, Catholics, Muslims, and atheists.
I need to stop playing favorites with who gets my time. I also need to challenge you to do the same.
My challenge to you (and me): spend an hour with somebody you would normally not hang out with this week. Once you’ve done that, report back in the comments below and let’s see how we can encourage each other to keep it up.