Saturday, October 20, 2012

A lie from the pit of hell

Okay, it isn't that bad, but I needed to grab your attention!

We were due to train a group in door-knocking yesterday, then take them out, but one by one they dropped off, so we postponed the training. One lady turned up unexpectedly, so we chatted with her for a while, hearing of her enthusiasm but also her fading confidence. "We need to earn the right to witness" she explained.

I've heard this so many times before. It is borne out of people's experience apparently, but when pressed very few can remember when they last caused offence by talking about Jesus - because we just don't do it any more. So it has become a mantra which justifies our decision to conveniently avoid something we find uncomfortable.

I disagree both for pragmatic and theological reasons. Yesterday we went out for a good walk, and on our way home collected a hitch-hiker, and took him to the train station. We chatted about job, family, holiday weekends, and Jesus. Yes, Jesus. The topic slipped easily and naturally into our conversation, and as he said he had never heard an explanation of why Jesus came, died, and rose again, we told him. Then the conversation carried on, easily and naturally. He was not in the least embarrassed, offended or upset that we touched on our faith. He responded in kind, telling us what he believed and how it shaped his life. This has been our experience time and time again this year. Not once have we been told to earn the right before speaking of Jesus.

Now the theological bit. I have been uneasy for a while with a model of evangelism which relies on me - either to live such an outstanding life that people ask me questions which lead to a conversation about Jesus, or to carry out acts of selfless kindness which somehow earn me the right to share my faith. I find it hard to see this in the Bible. Indeed, my conclusion today is that Jesus earned the right when he died on the cross. He earned the right for every man, woman and child on this planet to have the good news communicated effectively in ways they can understand and respond to. And this will nearly always involve words.

I will go further, and say that Christians have no right to NOT talk about Jesus. There are numerous commands in the New Testament that we should tell others of Jesus, live in such a way as to demonstrate kingdom life, and help others do the same. I see no suggestions that we should wait for the right moment, speak only when spoken to, or ever deny another person the opportunity to hear about, experience and understand God's incredible love.

"You must earn the right to witness." Not quite a lie from the pit of hell, but...