The last post asked a question of those who already believe in Jesus to reflect on why it is they shrink away from a verbal witness to that experience.
The question is by no means meant to be judgmental. In fact, the intent is the opposite. It is an invitation to honestly reflect on what causes us to shrink back, and to use that knowledge to increase our boldness and courage.
In this second post, I would like to ask a second question (though in all honesty it is not exactly a question, since I am going to answer it from my vantage point).
Question 2: Why is it so important to share a verbal witness about Jesus Christ?
(Caveat: If you are reading these posts and do not identify as a follower of Jesus, I am really grateful that you have stuck with me. I think it is really important for you to know why Jesus wants those who know him to talk about him. They may not be the reasons you thought)
Reason 1: It strengthens your faith and relationship with Jesus
How does a believer grow in their faith and in relationship with Jesus? There are certainly important practices that must be mentioned besides sharing your faith, including but not limited to vibrant community, good Bible teaching, prayer, personal disciplines, and service.
I would argue that though those are all important, sharing your faith actually stretches and grows your faith in a way that none of those do.
Think of it in terms of a human analogy. Imagine a husband who has been married for 5 years and is hanging out with some college buddies and they ask him, “So what does your wife do to relax?” What if he can’t answer that? He might be a bit embarrased in the moment, but if he is a good husband that conversation with his friends will compel him to move towards deeper intimacy with his wife. It will be the first question he asks her that night.
Many believers are afraid of being put in a situation where they don’t know the answer, but they miss the fact that those moments create priceless opportunities for growth. When someone asks sincere questions about suffering, about doubts they have, or about concerns they see with faith that you don’t know how to answer, it creates the same opportunity given the husband in the analogy above. It is an opportunity to go deeper in intimacy and understanding. Those opportunities get created by sharing your faith in a way that is different from any other.
Reason 2: It is part of the mission of God
I don’t think i can improve on the wonderful quote that Brian McLaren gives us in his great book, “More Ready Than You Realize”:
“What if there really is a great and good and king God, and we humans really are God’s creatures, though we lose our way sometimes? And what if your deepest dream is really true, that the God who really exists really loves us? And what if one of the best ways for God to get through to us is through others who have been brought back to a good path? And what if for every obvious and sleazy religious huckster there are in fact a dozen subtle but sincere examples of spiritual authenticity and vibrancy whose influencers would do the rest of us a lot of good? What if there really are “angels” out there – not of the wings-and-halos type, but of the flesh-and-blood, laughter-and-tears type – people who are literally sent by God to intervene, to help those of us who have mucked up our lives, to give us a taste of grace, a ‘rumor of glory’.”
Love that last line: “What if there really are “angels” out there – not of the wings-and-halos type, but of the flesh-and-blood, laughter-and-tears type – people who are literally sent by God to intervene, to help those of us who have mucked up our lives, to give us a taste of grace, a ‘rumor of glory’.” This is part of the mission of God that you and I are redemptively invited into.
Reason 3: God wants people to find Jesus
This is another thought that originally germinated from McLaren’s “More Ready Than You Realize.”
A large percentage of people in modern Western society will accept Jesus as a teacher, and most will even be fine if someone chooses to interact with Jesus as their lord – as long as that person keeps their beliefs to themselves. But if a follower of Jesus wants to talk about why they believe Jesus points us to the true God we are often seen as intolerant and judgmental.
What do you do about that if you care about and believe in Jesus, but also want to avoid as being seen as intolerant and judgmental?
I have adapted a response to this that I feel comfortable using in my own skin. Let me put it in an imaginary conversation (yet one I have had a hundred times in different versions):
Typical statement from one of my secular friends: “I would say I am a spiritual person, but I am not religious.”
My response: “What would you say God is like? This seems to be one of the most important questions someone can answer, and that answer will shape a lot of how they live their life.”
Their typical response: “I have great respect for God, whatever God may be like. But I don’t think anyone has the right to say what God is like.”
My response (if they are open to the conversation continuing): “Doesn’t that seem like a really dangerous position to take? I am not saying this is true of you, but have you ever noticed how often people tend to see God as a bigger and better version of what they value?”
If you are conservative you see God as the God of your values (and same for liberal). If you are artist you seen an untamed God, and if you are an engineer you see God as an organized God. If you are a chauvinist God will be very manly and if you are a feminist God is ‘she’… If you are white collar/intellectual God is clothed in abstractions; if you are blue collar God has a much simpler quality. The point is not that any of those are wrong but that by nature if we create God in our image it will be limited at best and absolutely distorted at worst.”
Friend’s typical response: “I understand what you are saying to a point. So why do you feel like you have the right to declare Jesus as the only or best way? That seems really judgmental and closed minded.”
My response: “I don’t like being around close-minded, judgmental, intolerant people any more than you do. But truthfully however we answer the question ‘What is God like?’ has a tremendous impact on how we live our lives. If you were God what would you do with all these distorted and competing versions of who you are out there?
What if you decided to pour the essence of who you were into a human being? Wouldn’t that be a good way to show people who God was and what God was really like? This person would need to carry all the balance and harmony and accuracy of God in God’s purest form. This person would need to be a true window into the heart, mind, and being of God. This person would have to be able to clearly show us the pathway to the heart or God.
I believe God indeed poured the essence of who God is into a person, and that person was Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the only religious leader who even claimed that this was true of himself. So maybe it is not about being intolerant or judgmental or close minded. Maybe Jesus is what he says he is – the embodiment of God and the pathway to life.
That to me covers the motivation of why we should be compelled to share our faith. It stretches and strengthens our faith in a way that nothing else does. It allows us to participate in the mission of God in a way that nothing else does. It helps us to find Jesus and helps our friends to find Jesus so that we can get a more complete and whole picture of who God ultimately is.