It’s really easy to see people as wrong, not lost.
We judge without always meaning to. It just kind of happens. We know other people are watching us too, and for a lot of us, that’s intimidating. Like Jason said in his sermon, we’re so afraid of being rejected, we never get the opportunity to see people consider or accept the message of Jesus…because we never try to share our faith. We’re afraid they’re going to see us as wrong. Or crazy. Or a weirdo.
The university I went to had a lot of interesting characters grace the campus. I can remember walking to class and seeing people standing on crates or small platforms, megaphones in hand, telling us we were all going to hell if we didn’t repent. Never once do I remember hearing any of those people say “God loves you,” or something along those lines. I do remember seeing some young people holding a sign that said, “Smile, God loves you,” on a street corner.
It may seem crazy, but I think a lot of my classmates thought that’s what being a Christian was…standing on a platform and criticizing everyone around them. Whenever I did get to talking about faith or God with my classmates, a lot of them thought Christianity was about rules and really old people and places that didn’t matter anymore. By contrast, one of my good friends in college was overwhelmed by the “rules.” She was so on fire for God and spoke up in class if a professor said something she didn’t agree with… but I remember on several occasions, she expressed concern she wasn’t going to church enough. She told me she had to miss a holy day because she had to study for a tough exam. I could tell she was legitimately bothered by missing it, and worried, actually worried, God was upset with her. It made me sad because she clearly loved God so much, but it didn’t always seem she believed he loved her.
Based on that last paragraph, it may seem like I’ve been able to share my faith with others. I have a little, but not enough, and not like what I was saying really mattered to me (even though it did). When I talked about God with people, it was usually those who already knew him or knew of him. Maybe they grew up in a home of faith but now weren’t sure how they really felt about it. Our conversations mostly came out of people shouting outside or if our professor said something questionable…
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with talking about faith or sharing faith when those things come up. It was me. I remember hiding behind my words and taking them back most times…or downplaying it like I didn’t really believe what I was saying. My retreat on my words was most always in response to how the other person reacted. I think about what would have happened if Paul did that, saying, “oh, well, I guess it’s not that big of a deal. I only kind of know God. I guess I may have heard something from this one place…” That sounds awful! Who would take any stock in that?
If you’re like me, this is something you need to practice. You aren’t going to be able to get on a bike and ride it if you’ve never ridden one before. It takes a little time. You find a method that works for you. Finding common ground with someone can be really helpful, just as Jason told us in his sermon. Paul didn’t use the Bible to point to Jesus when he was in Athens because they had no frame of reference to it. They did however worship many gods. They knew what a god was, but they didn’t see it in books. They saw it in their world. So Paul pointed to God in creation. God the creator of everything. That was something they could grasp.
As you may have seen in one of my older posts, my best friend is an atheist. We’ve talked about God a lot. I’ve seen God work in her life in amazing ways, whether she knows it or not. Just because we’ve had the conversation doesn’t mean we can’t ever again. In fact, we usually talk about God at least once when we’re together. One of the reasons it’s so easy for me to talk to her is because she’s one of the most open and accepting people I know. I’m not afraid of rejection because I know it’s not going to ever come, even if she doesn’t agree with me.
What I need to continue working on is having those conversations and being aware of where people are in their journey and meeting them there. That’s how we can connect with people. It may be scary, but nothing will change if we don’t get going. If we fall down, we can get back up again. More than anything, we need to remember God is with us. He isn’t going to leave us alone, and he can certainly give us wisdom and insight into how to handle a situation.
Remember this too: what we’re telling people is good news! It’s the best news. Maybe we just need to change our perspective, because right now, it seems the only message I hear is “repent or you’ll go to hell.” Let’s give people something else to digest. Something they can hold on to.