Eric Michael Bryant in Not Like Me connects authentic relationships with impacting others for Jesus. Bryant provides a call to engage those that don’t look like us, share our culture or even believe the same as us. In fact he goes so far as to call us to love those people that the Christian mainstream hates. He notes that typically we push away people that don’t think or behave as we do removing our ability to influence them. Bryant instead points out the need to engage these not like me people in true friendships. He urges us to love people without judgment or conditions, realizing that though one may not have a relationship with Jesus, that God still loves that person unconditionally. This is the example that we must follow. Bryant shows that only be entering true relationships with people not like us can we have a lasting impact on their lives and help to show them the power of Jesus.
I have to be honest; I have wanted to read this book from when it was first issued as Peppermint-Filled Piñatas. I’m very happy to say I was not disappointed. Bryant writes what we know in our own hearts, without a relationship with people we cannot expect to successfully impact them. But not only must we have a relationship, we must have a relationship built on love, respect and honesty not one based on a hidden agenda. By being honest we learn more about others and ourselves. Bryant reminds us that Jesus immersed himself amongst those that the religious establishment considered outsiders. And he angered that establishment as he moved salvation past a religious system of dos and do nots to a relationship with a living God. Not Like Me reminds us the simplest and best way for us to introduce someone to a friend, is to be a friend first.
I think this is an important work. Bryant urges us to move past our fears and preconceptions of others, others that we look down at, don’t understand and honestly fear for their cultural and moral choices and to look at people. Basically, he challenges us to look at people as people, not as sinners. By following Bryant’s charge and advice on friendship building we can find that key to demolishing the negative opinions that general public has of Christ followers especially charges of hate filled and judgmental. Not Like Me reminds us that like Jesus to save people we must first love people.