On most Wednesday night’s I go to a ‘boys night out’ at one of the local bars. My neighbor, Shahar, invited me to go months ago, and I’ve been going ever since. It’s usually a group of 10-12 men, just hanging out, catching up, enjoying their relationships, meeting new guys, staying in touch.
All of them are Israeli or are married to Israelis – all Jewish except for one convert and a Turkish Muslim – and me.
Needless to say, I’m an outsider that they have been kind enough to welcome, although, when someone new starts speaking to me in Hebrew and gets a puzzled response – they can’t help but wonder what I’m doing there. I usually blame Shahar for my presence.
It’s hard to describe all that I’m learning and experiencing by hanging out with these guys. For instance, I could tell you the real reason Jewish men are circumcised – but not online. It really is a fun group and there are dozens of guys who cycle through each week. Their involvement with faith and religion is varied, most describing themselves as ‘not practicing’. There is a young rabbi who comes on occasion, connecting in a meaningful way by helping some get involved in Jewish practices. (More about him and the movement he represents sometime in another post.)
I tell you about them with utmost respect. It is a privilege to get to know them. They are great at answering all of my questions about their experience, and they do not hesitate to share their opinions. A conversation usually goes something like this:
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m a pastor of a church?”
“Is that like a priest?”
“Yes, also what would be called a ‘minister.'”
“Huh. I’m agnostic. I don’t think that you can be certain about religious things.”
A couple of Wednesdays ago that was said by a post-doc in bio-chemistry, who has a phd in some area of physics. These guys are very bright. What followed was an engaging conversation that drew in a couple others about where belief in God comes from and what purpose it serves. (Perhaps, in later posts I will tell you some details about some of these conversations, because these guys ask great questions. My best answers and contributions occur to me days later, usually while I’m mowing the yard.)
Some lessons I’m learning?
1. Most of what we do as Christians makes us nearly useless to those who don’t already believe what we believe. We are not even in the conversations about life most of the time – except with ourselves. Okay, maybe that judgment is too harsh and general, but it has been interesting to me that even though I have been going for months on Wednesdays to very public places I have never seen anyone I knew from the church world. We don’t tend to be present in places where people actually are, and when we are we may be too silent to be identified as a Christian. I can’t avoid it with these guys.
2. Our biggest obstacle to representing what we believe may have nothing to do with how much we know or don’t know about our faith, but about whether or not we even like people. Even at work I wonder if we are really ‘there’ enough to know, like and enjoy people. In comparison to Jesus, wouldn’t it be incredibly ironic if the way we do faith trains us to not like people.
3. When you like someone you care about their story. And when you care about their story, you respect them. When you respect people you have a better chance to see the image of God in them. Then you care about them even more.
Okay, don’t feel bad if you are not going out more often. Maybe plenty of us already live these lessons and don’t need reminding. But, I wonder what would happen if we lliked people more than we do. They won’t bite. Actually, they might if we get close enough – but that’s when it really gets interesting.