This morning I was praying for some twenty-somethings I know who have kind of wandered away from God. They’re really enjoying the partying hard thing, the sex without strings thing, and carpe without commitment. I was praying that God might draw them back to Himself – remind them of the grace and meaning and joy to be found in dependence on Him.
But I have a Confession: I don’t have the gift of “evangelism” and I often think I don’t care as much as I should about the souls of those far from God. The culture of “live and let live” has immunized me. Plus there’s the risk of making anyone feel like a “project” or being labeled one of “those” Christians with pat answers and tracts in place of candy at Halloween that scares me.
The result? A posture that is more likely to minimize reference to my relationship with Jesus – the most joyous gift I have, rather than steward this gift with non-believers.
I’m tempted to treat it more like a liability. I fear it might affect my credibility. Or at least my “cool factor” (as if I have one! :)) One of our friends wrote in the cover of his Bible “No more Bozo’s for Jesus.” I get it.
But sometimes I think I need to heed those signs we pass on the way to the airport: “If you see something, say something.” I’ve “seen” something life-changing, but often I don’t say something.
Recently I got a Christmas letter from some friends who are strong believers. I know they love Jesus and care about others who don’t know Him, but there was nothing in their update that would lead anyone reading it to think that Jesus was any part of their life.
Others are self-conscious and skip their weekly habit of worship on Sunday when guests are in town visiting. And some, who would normally pray at meals, don’t do that for fear of making others feel uncomfortable.
Again, I get it. We need to be both self-aware and other-aware. Ask, “What is the need of the moment?” How can we be sensitive but not so sensitive that our silence denies our faith?
There’s a difference between “I’ve discovered this amazing gift that changes how I experience all of life, now and forever.” and “I have this belief system that may cramp your style so I won’t bother you with it.”
Maybe we ask, “How can I love this person well in this situation?” Unfortunately, our culture has taught us that loving people well, means doing what is most comfortable for them and for us.
As I look at Jesus, His love always accepted people where they were, but longed for them to have more, see more, experience more – more of Him. That “more” often involves facing some truth that isn’t comfortable, but it starts with grace so we need to start there, praying for the other and praying that the heart of Jesus would be manifest through us.
Sometimes we are to just pray and model a life of love as best we can. We keep an ear to God and an ear to the other. Sometimes we may need to remain silent. But too often that’s our “go to”. There are those in our lives who we may be aware are either seeking, or stumbling along and we can offer a hand.
What if you were completely transparent? What if today, you called or wrote someone you know and love and were just honest?
If you want to love the other exactly where they are, you say so.
If you want God’s best for the other, but don’t want to come across as creepy judgmental Christian cop, you say so.
If you don’t have all the answers to hard questions (or even some), you say so.
If you mess up, and feel awkward and are embarrassed by some of the things people do in the name of Jesus, say so.
If you have no idea what your friend believes or where they are on their journey, say so. And then listen.
Like I wrote up top, this is not my strong suit. I’d love to hear from you. How do you navigate loving and accepting unbelievers while still being honest about the “hope that is within you”?
P.S. I love these pictures of my friend Matt, who is one of the most authentic, compelling “evangelists” I know!