Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 147:1-11, Job 12:1, 14:1-22, Acts 12:18-25, John 8:47-59
One of the things people find annoying about Christians is that we just won’t shut up about it.
Years ago I was at a funeral for an infant. Such a tragically short life is difficult to eulogize, so it was no surprise the presiding pastor’s words were very general. What was surprising, at least to me, was how quickly he turned the service into an altar call. What exactly was he thinking? “You’re a captive, vulnerable audience focused on mortality … what better time to remind you about the dangers of hell!” Had this tactic ever paid off in a meaningful way? The approach felt less evangelistic than predatory.
We should always be willing to share the gospel, but we should be sensitive to when people are ready to receive it. After an angel freed Peter from Herod’s prison, he left Judea for Caesarea and stayed there. When the Jewish religious leaders were ready to stone Jesus because they did not want to believe his teachings, he hid and fled the temple. If the founder and the rock of the church know when to get out of Dodge, so should we.
Sharing our faith in a time and place where Christianity is not a new movement but the default expectation requires some discernment. To many non-Christians, and to many wounded faithful, we are perceived not as the new Apostles caring for the poor, but as the old hypocrites failing to embrace our own standards. Nobody in Rome 40 A.D. had been cut off in traffic by a van with a Jesus-fish sticker.
The message of Christ is always counter-cultural, even when Christianity is the culture. We don’t just have to share the Gospel, we have to contend with two thousand years of crusades, witch hunts, discrimination, and other baggage which have distorted it. To share our message of hope with people in their most vulnerable moments, we have to be vulnerable. To share it with people who are angry at Christianity, we have to first hear their complaints. We can best know when to speak by learning how to listen.
Comfort: You don’t have to evangelize every moment.
Challenge: It’s important to recognize the moments where you should.
Prayer: God of life, may my actions be a constant testimony, and may my words show people your love. Amen.
Discussion: What are your greatest challenges when sharing the Gospel?
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