I was having a conversation the other day regarding a guy who I was about to hear speak. This guy has started a company that is very inspiring and that is doing great good for the wider world. Before the interview started, a person I was standing with asked me, “is he a Christian?” I responded that I didn’t know his story. With a follow up, this person asked me, “do you know if he tells people the Gospel and evangelizes while he is doing his work?” I responded that to my knowledge I didn’t think so, that although he may be a Christian, in the work he was doing, speaking the Gospel wasn’t something I thought they did. The person I was talking to responded that they felt any work that wasn’t also partnered with a verbal Gospel presentation just wasn’t fully worth it. I believe the words were something like, “it’s just not eternal.”
Really? Not worth it? Meeting someone physical needs ones they cannot meet on their own, not worth it? That’s funny because I recall Jesus meeting all sorts of physical needs and yes sometimes he also took in depth time to proclaim what he was about, but many other times he did not.
As Christians, we think we have it all figured out. I think as people we think we have it all figured out and Christians, being just a sub-category of humanity, are no different. We love to believe that we have finally figured out everything that is correct, in living, in practice, in life, and it is our individual responsibility to preach to and correct anyone who feels differently than us… because after all, we have it all figured out.
I actually think one of the coolest parts of follow Christ is the acknowledgement that we don’t have it all figured out. Christianity is messy and weird and at times not clear, but that is the beauty of it, acknowledging that we don’t know it all.
As I drove home, I thought of the conversation I had. St. Francis of Assisi is noted as saying, “preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words.” As Christians we stand and applaud when we hear things like that but seldom feel comfortable when someone is preaching the Gospel only with their actions, as if the world will be confused, as if unless we wave our Jesus banner in the face of those we serve, God won’t be glorified. I think serving people in love is the primary way their hearts become opened to the possibility that Christ may be real, living, now. Maybe serving is the way we show people Jesus.
I am currently sitting in a coffee Shop in Washington D.C. Now I have been here a few times but I can tell you that every time I come I am blown away by the monuments and the history that surround me. I don’t care how many history books I have read, or shows I have watched, or stories I have heard, being shown the city is far different, far more memorable and impactful.
In a like analogy, I have studies Theology and history for a few years. I know a decent amount about it. That knowledge can never stand in place however of walking the streets of Jerusalem, or visiting Galilee.
Maybe that is why standing on a street corner with a bullhorn proclaiming that the passersby are all going to hell is actually more hurtful than helpful. They don’t show others Jesus. I would love to know the percentage of converts these street side preachers are working with as well because I would guess it is a slim margin.
What if we lived in a world where Christians actually did preach the Gospel always? We didn’t fight or quarrel with one another, we were respectful of others, we didn’t judge, we weren’t angry or bitter, we selflessly served, we set an example. What is amidst political turmoil Christians weren’t screaming from our sidelines (yes I am talking to both Dems and Reps) but we were the ones seeking peace and resolution. What if we were the ones sheltering unwed mothers not judging them. What if we actually built relationships with other people, outside our denomination, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, etc?
The problem is telling someone of Jesus is a lot easier than showing them Jesus. Jesus touched lepers he held children he healed people. Jesus Got close. Telling people of him allows us to keep our distance, showing people him mandates that it becomes close and personal, that it sacrifices time, and energy and resources. St. Francis had it right, and he spent a lifetime wandering around towns impoverished, showing people Jesus. When it becomes about showing people Jesus, we can’t count converted lives, we can’t incrementally measure our impact, and we can only love those who the world doesn’t love.
The other truth about Christians, besides the fact that we know everything, is the truth that we are often very lazy. We love living the American dream with a hint of Jesus. We love having 2.5 kids, a dog, our upper middle class house, going to our nice church and not having to deal with anyone all that different than us. I argue that living the Gospel forces us to break out of our American dream, it requires us to sacrifice, to love when it hurts, to give when we have nothing, but I truly believe it is in these moments when we stop telling ourselves about Jesus and we actually begin meeting him as well.