Nowadays the angst many Christians feel is a result of seeing our values marginalized in the world. It can even make us lash out or be a bit “preachy.” But what if the world sees Christians in a negative light too?
I’m proposing that we Christians replace negativity and anger with an approach of gentleness and evangelism. Indeed, I’m proposing that, instead of focusing on Christian hardships, we look for relationships.
I’m referring to two key relationships. There are countless crucial relationships in our lifetimes. But for the purposes of a discussion on how we can “persuade” society back to Christian values, it really boils down to two in particular.
The First Relationship
Our relationship to our Heavenly Father must become ironclad. If Christianity is the “product,” we must become the top consumers, and we must consume it like it’s going out of stock! In John 15:5 Jesus analogized by saying “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” No amount of yelling and hollering doomsday dictions from our pulpits (real or metaphorical) will convince anyone of anything but that we’re pompous. In fact, our condemning and self-righteous words and actions probably only push others away and turn them off to listening to us (and, consequently, to the Lord). We must become fruit-bearing. Let the world see what we do – what we produce. Let it come out in the ways we serve one another, lift up the weak or oppressed in our communities, and never miss an opportunity to do good. It’s not that we want self-aggrandizement; we’re just overflowing with God’s love for other people! That can only flow out of us if we are rooted in Him. We root ourselves in Him by drinking deeply of His Word, and by associating with strong brothers and sisters in our faith, who lift us up and remind us that God’s family is the strongest safety net to fall back into.
The Second Relationship
We need to - all of us – become “everyday-everywhere-missionaries.” Did you know that the number of missionaries coming to America from other countries is rapidly increasing? As our culture keeps shifting away from the moralistic “city on a hill” that America always was, foreign Christians (and practitioners of other faiths) see our country as a place where their missionaries need to be sent! For anyone older than about 40, that idea was a far cry from a likelihood when they were a child, but it’s the world we now live in.
The good news is – WE DON’T NEED THEM! Why not? Because out of the 300+ million Americans living within our borders, millions of us leave our homes every day with Christ in our hearts and interact with our fellow Americans in our businesses, while shopping at the mall, in school, or anywhere else. Everywhere we go there are chances to positively influence others with our values and faith.
The question is, Do we see each day as opportunity for just that? Do we still somehow believe that the only real missionaries are those leaving our nation to travel abroad? Do we truly believe it should be that way, when countless millions of our neighbors right here need us to show them Jesus?
Maybe what stops us from taking up that torch is that we have too narrow a view of what a missionary should be. It’s far too easy to abdicate to the “qualified.” Jesus has called some to be ordained into public ministry, to make a career of serving and ministering to people within a church congregation and to that community’s inhabitants. But the mission isn’t just for them. Most of Jesus’ first followers, who led the beginning of the Christian movement, were “Average Joe’s” like fishermen, tax collectors, or tradesmen. Whatever gifts we have, we’re meant to use them. And we all have the gift of love and sincerity to see every other person we come upon in daily life as a soul who is bound for one of two eternal destinations. God gives us “Average Joe’s” his saving mission too! Perhaps you’ve heard it said: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called! Read the end of Matthew 28 and understand that Jesus meant those words for all believers!
We aren’t all called to preach a sermon at all times. In fact, that’s often not helpful or necessary. We live in a culture where randomly turning to the person next to you on the subway and spouting Bible passages robotically won’t be received well. We need to become excellent at just making relationships – friendships – with every person we meet, and especially with anyone God positions in special places around us in life. That coworker. That person you seem to always stand at the bus stop with on the way to work. That fellow volunteer down at the American Legion. That assistant coach on your little league team. That student. That professor. That neighbor who always seems to wander over to your yard and chit chat, which sometimes leads to admissions about a hopeless or troubled life.
It doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Believe me, I’m one of them! We don’t all have an enterprising personality or the charisma of a pop star. But we all have the message, and we all can make friends! That’s how it starts.
We are all called to reach out to everyone who needs a gentle “Hello there” or a hug in the midst of calamity striking a neighborhood. We are all called to be there for one another, and to let others into our lives. The more of our fellow human beings we can become connected with, the more opportunities we have to counteract the belief that Christians are just a bunch of judgmental hypocrites.
Ask God for the courage to leave your safe personal bubble! Remember how much Christ means to you, and imagine how amazing it would be for someone else to know Him too! Jesus’ love can guide your every word, thought, and deed. Meet people where they are at, learn about their life, and be someone they want to get to know. Become a listener, not a talker. Be real. Then, and only then, will you have a door of opportunity opened to you to show what life with Christ is all about.
We can change the discussion on values. We can change the discussion on the sanctity of human life. But we’ll never do it as banging, clanging, self-pious and boisterous cymbals who look like we just want attention. We will change it when we first draw close to others, and let them see who we really are. Let them see how Jesus has changed our hearts, and how it changes our mind on things. Then the same will happen for them. One relationship at a time, all of us, as everyday-everywhere-missionaries, can restore the value of life! This is the power of Christ in us!
Who do you know that you can be like Jesus to today?
Author: Jeff Ulrich
Jeff is a husband, father, and graduate school student. He attends Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc. Jeff’s background in ministry education and future in the counseling field reflect a heart that loves to serve others and make a difference. He shares his personal or spiritual reflections in his own time at www.missionpossiblejeffulrich.blogspot.com
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