Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No! Not the "E" Word!

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.  Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

Notice the escape clause here?  "(I)f someone asks...," Peter says.  For Christians who do NOT want to have to share or "witness" to their faith, this is the three mile wide door out of that sticky predicament.  Or is it?

When you place this in the larger context of Jesus' command to "Go, make disciples of all nations...," one begins to understand that it is also our job to engage in relationships, and in conversation within those relationships, in a way that prompts others to ask.  I am not talking about manipulation here.  I am talking about living and conducting yourself in a way that sets you apart as distinctively loving, gracious, forgiving, humble, joyful, self-less and patient.  This also means that you speak in such a way - not with religious language - but with grace, without criticism or malice or gossip, and in a way that blesses and encourages. 

Friends naturally talk about what is going on in their lives with friends, right?  Heck, we do it with passing acquaintances as well.  When in a conversation with friends, do you ever bring in any spiritual content in a natural way?  Like when a friend tells you about a neighbor whose parent dies, would it occur to you to say, "I hope that when that time comes for me, God will give me the strength to deal with it.  I just can't imagine how hard that must be."  You are not being fake or disingenuous.  As a believer, you probably really feel that way.  So why not say what you think and feel that will not be seen as out of place, and also lets people know that there is some spiritual content to your life?  I could give a hundred other examples, but you get the picture.  If people know there is some spiritual content to your life, they may be prompted to ask about that, especially when they feel it might be of some benefit to them. 

In fact, to go one step further, the Bible does not prohibit you from asking others to ask you.  In the example above, after saying, " I hope that when that time comes for me, God will give me the strength to deal with it.  I just can't imagine how hard that would be," what if you turned to your friend and asked, "What do you lean on for strength when something tragic happens?  How do you get through it?"  Who knows what kind of doors for a spiritual conversation that might open up?  So why don't we do more of that?

Yes, it is easier to avoid this and just keep any spiritual or God/Jesus references to yourself.  So why risk it?  Because people matter to God!  And as author Billy Hybels has said, if they matter to God, they had better matter to you!  That's why there is no escape hatch on this one.  All of us, if we interact with other humans at all, are called to do the work of  - here comes that word - an Evangelist.  But really, all that word means is someone who brings the Good News of God's love in Christ. All of us already do that anyway.  Our friends and all of those closest to us know what we value.  They have probably heard us talk about it many times.  Why is our faith in Christ any different?  

May God give you the grace to live and speak in such a way that others are naturally drawn to engage you in spiritual conversation.  May you pick up on the cues and pave the way for that conversation to happen.  And as you do, may the Holy Spirit guide your words and help you to bring your friend one step closer to knowing Christ as Savior and Lord.  

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