HOW, WHEN AND WHERE TO SHARE OUR FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE WITH OTHERS HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ISSUE WITH CHRISTIANS, ESPECIALLY WITH FAMILY, NEIGHBORS AND CO-WORKERS. THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT PETER, ONE OF JESUS’ FIRST 12 FOLLOWERS, GIVES IN THE BIBLE LAYS OUT SOME HELPFUL STEPS THAT WILL ENABLE US TO COMMUNICATE OUR FAITH TO OTHERS EFFECTIVELY.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).
The first step is to “… set apart Christ as Lord” in your heart. In your morning quiet time, invite Him to sit on the throne of your heart, mind, will and emotions. Ask the Holy Spirit to sensitize you to any opportunity to represent, or better yet, to re-present Christ during your normal day at home, school or work.
Next, we are told to “… be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you are living the way you are …” (The Message). “Be ready” implies preparing beforehand to answer, with lip or life, anyone who brings up the topic. Note that it is the other party who initiates the conversation. I have always been under the impression that if you are prepared, you will not have to seek inquiring folks out. God will send them to you. Attraction rather than promotion will gain their attention and interest. This holds true for Salvation Army corps as well as for the individual.
How do you prepare an answer to those who ask? There is no substitute for knowing thoroughly the objective facts concerning what God has done through Christ Jesus and being able to articulate them clearly and reasonably. Just as importantly, we should be able to shift gears, from Earth to Heaven, and in a very personal way share the hope and confidence we have in Christ.
Family, neighbors and co-workers can be tough nuts to crack, since we are all operating under the axiom that “… no prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24). Day to day, they see all our ups and downs and shortcomings. But they cannot help seeing our positive responses to life’s problems, failures and hardships—responses that are very different from their own. Since these folks see us on an ongoing basis, warts and all, it will probably take a heap of wisdom and patience.
Paul told the Colossians to “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5,6 NKJV). Since these folks know us so well, we cannot afford to be inconsistent in our walk and our talk. As the old preacher said long ago, “We should be a sermon in shoes.”
Reaching a wayward child who is far from God can be gut-wrenching. Unsolicited advice or instruction is seldom appreciated. What can we do when there is this historical and emotional overlay that complicates matters? Again, Peter has an answer: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5,6 NIV). That is the negative command. Here is the positive one: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God [here is the promised blessing] and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7 NIV).
This applies equally to family tragedies and discord. This is to be our spiritual response. When trouble comes, don’t run to the phone. Run to the throne to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need. Bring this loved one to Christ in prayer first.
A Continuing Conversation
Reaching out to our neighbors in this day of much mobility will require an intentional act on our part. As new people move in, I make it a point to introduce myself and welcome them into the neighborhood. After the usual small talk, I bridge over to asking them about where they attend church. Depending on the answer, I may invite them to our corps. However, if they repel the idea of joining our corps, I let them know that if they have any spiritual questions or issues, I am available. At least the door has been cracked, and they know that a believer lives near them. The Holy Spirit can then do His work. As time goes by, we can get to know each other better, and things can open up. Once they are comfortable, there is also the possibility that further sharing can occur.
But who is my neighbor? That question was answered long ago in the story of the Good Samaritan. Not only does the term apply to those that live adjacent to us; it applies to anyone we may encounter in the course of our day—at the gym, market, gas station—wherever. Everyone has needs, and learning to be sensitive to others’ needs, even strangers’ needs, can open the door.
Almost everyone likes to talk about themselves. Normally it only takes a little skill and friendliness to start them talking, and as they do, we can be praying for the Holy Spirit to direct the conversation to spiritual things. Sometimes He will and other times He will not, but at least we will be available. And there could very well be a next time.
This applies to our corps on Sunday mornings. As new people walk through our doors for the first time, do you introduce yourself and welcome them? The reason I am in The Salvation Army today is that a friendly captain took an interest in me and invited me to the corps. Thanks again to Major Harvey Johnson!
Co-workers pose a different set of circumstances. Everyone, including you, is there to produce a product. But we are not machines. We all have problems. Because of the close quarters, we do get familiar with each other. As we talk around the water cooler, pass remarks about how we spent our weekends, and so on, it does not take long for us to figure each other out. Personal items on desks tell a story. Being open and friendly and refraining from gossip or rough language will send the message that you are different. Having a Bible or devotional book on your desk, if permissible, speaks volumes.
I always kept my business cards tucked into a small New Testament in my front pocket. When I gave away my card, out came the New Testament. This always commanded a response—sometimes verbal but always visual. Many times, this opened a door to leave Earth’s business to transact Heaven’s business. More than once, I gave away the book as well as the card, along with the invitation to call anytime.
The opportunities are there if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and prepared in our spirit. Remember the old Latin phrase: Sola Deo Gloria! May God alone be glorified!