As people trying to follow the teachings of Jesus, we’re called to live differently. “They will know we are Christians by our love” is the old campfire tune I remember from my youth. It seems not many see Christians loving others but more judging others.
When I serve others and get involved in ministries that do so, I like to tell others. I hope to encourage others to join in, to help us but more importantly for their benefit. Serving is a form of worship; it softens our hearts that get trampled on by this world, so that we’re ready to receive whatever God has to say to us or has in store for us.
Serving = Worship
From time to time I’ll discuss with someone the various ministries my spouse, Carla, and I either lead or serve in regularly, and sometimes I’ll get a response like, “You guys are awesome that you do all the great stuff to help people.” Jesus gave a caution for this situations late in his earthly ministry in John 12:43 where he warned about loving the praise from people more than the praise we get from God. It can feel good in the moment to be recognized. I believe God has much more for me – at some point in an unknown future and timing – which can be more difficult to grasp as enough for me.
Ultimately, I hope to point only to Jesus in these times, but based on who is giving the compliment I may find it difficult to give God the glory without coming off as a creepy Jesus person. Yes, there’s much worse to be thought of, but I remember those types of people and although they did leave an impression on me (somewhat good in the end) I would hope to attract people to Jesus and not freak them out – like I was freaked out when I was a youth.
Lately, I’ve been attempting to turn the praise around with a dialogue something like this:
“Well, I’ve not been a great person for much of my life. I’ve been shown much love and mercy in my life for things I’ve done wrong. So, I think the natural response to love and mercy is to provide the same to others.”
I like to leave things a bit open ended, so perhaps there’s a question about how I got to that point or exactly who showed me love and mercy. Sometimes we get there; other times we don’t. I guess I figure if someone doesn’t pursue the conversation further, they’re probably not interested in the answer to the question I hope they ask.
I hope they do ask a question. Then I can point them to Jesus.
The book “Speaking of Jesus – the art of not-evangelism” was a big help in reorienting my approach to talking about matters of faith in my life in a way that hopefully attracts and intrigues people. It doesn’t always work. But this isn’t about technique, but about my heart for others to know Jesus the way I’m learning to know him – meeting at the intersection of the other’s openness to want to know (really know) why I do what I do.
If you like to become more effective in conversations about your faith in Jesus, read the book. Then spend a little time thinking about what you might say when you’re asked. The Apostle Peter urged us to be ready with a reason for the hope that is in you.
In the end, we don’t save people. That’s God’s business. We’re called to rise up to the opportunities we have to share our faith with others then let the Holy Spirit do his work.