“Go therefore and make disciples” –Jesus Christ
“Evangelize or fossilize” –Greg Laurie
In his memoir Woody Allen writes that 99% of life is just showing up. That basically sums up my approach to evangelism until recently. In a previous post on evangelism there was a lot of thinking and mulling-over of intentional grace-filled living. But we are talking about the Great Commission, not the great contemplation. Jesus used the words go and make which when put together are a simple, active command. It’s also the best news of all time so it’s cause for celebration! I always read it with a burdened tone, from a solemn-faced Jesus. Maybe because I understand the Great Commission as a burden I don’t want to accept, a life I don’t really want to live. I know that if I were to just get over myself–my pride, my “image,” my selfishness– I could give it away and have a great time doing it. Deep down I know there’s nothing to lose. Yet distaste for the unknown and a strong appetite for keeping up appearances keep me silent.
For Jesus the Great Commission is the fruit of his labor as the God-man, the culmination of all he has endured on this broken planet. This is the parent attending the college graduation of a child (except way better because instead of loan payments coming, they get the Holy Spirit). In fact Jesus might have been jumping up and down (Trust me guys, this is going to be awesome!) except he knew that he would be leaving soon and some of them would suffer and die for the cause. So instead I imagine he gave these friends a warm smile that made even his eyes smile too. Then maybe he raised his nail-scarred hands to the sky and it was like he was giving them a Sunday morning benediction when he said all authority had been given to him so “Go therefore. . .” His tone must have communicated inexplicable joy and hope because nobody knows how good this news is better than this God-man.
I am almost unqualified to say there is inexplicable joy in sharing the Good News. I’ve barely witnessed. But the meager bit I have done this summer has brought such a sense of uplift in the moments after, like some holy blessed buzz, which I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit. To state a simple biblical truth to a stranger in passing feels like a giant exhale of my whole being, like singing opera in a garbage dump, like seeing a bird presumed to be extinct. That’s what it felt like to say “God is love” to five people.
My strategy is to look a stranger in the eye and smile and say, “I just wanted to share with you that God is Love.” If I’m speeding past on my bike then I say, “Have a blessed day! God is Love!” like I did to the gentle old man pushing a sleeping onesied baby in a stroller on a recent hot morning. I know it seems like nothing, like completely inconsequential and like not a risk at all. But I’m learning how to create the space for this in my day. It’s about being receptive to the call and being spiritually present in the physical monotony of the day. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities (like that bearded FedEx driver last week). And of course it’s not easy to get into that “awareness” mindset all the time. If I’m with the kids, for example, as they take up every ounce of focus and energy.
Perhaps my favorite seized opportunity was when I called Visa customer service. After the rep answered my question she said, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“No,” I said, “but I just wanted to tell you that God is Love.”
“Oh….thank you…yes….I believe that too.” And that was it. I didn’t know I was going to say anything about God until she asked me that last closing question. Apparently my little proclamation wasn’t news to her and that’s ok. But considering that for quality assurance this call may be monitored or recorded I felt kind of subversively empowered and spurred on to do more and say more in the future. Being monitored or recorded won’t stop me. What else won’t stop me?
I just wrapped up an enlightening video Bible Study series at Milwood Church called Tell Someone based on the book of the same name by Greg Laurie. This study has started me on this path of sharing the gospel with words to people in my day. It’s changed my approach to evangelism, helped me see how critical it is. While I think living our faith is important, it is equally important to share the gospel with our spoken words. It’s as important for the giver as it is for the receiver. I see that it’s an important component of our faith journey. It’s a continual giving over of our lives to Jesus because sharing the gospel is a humble act. It puts God back in control of our lives. If we never share the gospel the reason is probably that in too many moments we aren’t available, we want to take our life back. We aren’t surrendering all. No one is suggesting we share in every moment–not every moment is right. But we should be ready to share in any moment when prompted by the Holy Spirit. I’m just learning how to do this.
One of my favorite scripture passages of this study is when Paul tells the story of his conversion in Acts 26. God appears to Saul and he converts from being a persecutor of Jesus to a lover and proclaimer of him. God says, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads (v.14).’ I think that speaks to all of us being resistant to sharing the gospel. Why are you doing this? What you’re doing in anger is pointless and painful. Or as Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it, “Dude, you’re killing me with this. Knock it off.” I think it also speaks to a certain kind of obedience. Obedience we aren’t at all interested in, obedience we don’t understand but will do because it is from the Lord and we are powerless to fight it. Thank goodness.
So since that first post Farrah and I have continued to be friends. We still send food over now and again. One night during Ramadan she came by at 9:30 and brought over zucchinis stuffed with tomatoes and spiced ground lamb (I still need to get that recipe from her). I think we are as close of friends as as two can be who have different religions, different cultures but the same street. This year I’ve been to a ladies lunch dance party at her house and a lakeside picnic at Ramona Park. Laughter, Arabic music and that sweet cherry smell of hookah always fill the air. I’m usually the only white girl, the only one not speaking Arabic. I love that, actually. I’m just glad to be there getting to know these lovely women.
For the sake of practice and because this blog is part of my life and therefore part of my witness, I’d like to share with you some good news if you’ll just stick with me for another paragraph. Here’s the truth and its for you:
God is Love. He has nothing to do with anything that isn’t love. He made humanity to be in fellowship with Him. As a human family we made the choice to leave God’s side and go our own way, which is a path of darkness and sin. But God loved us too much to let us stay there. So he came to Earth as a baby, lived with us for 32 years and died a criminal’s death–though he did no wrong–to pay the price of our sin. Then he rose from the dead, proving his kingdom is Lord of all. We can be reunited with Him and be with Him forever if we confess our sin and believe this is true.