Sunday, December 6, 2009

Feeble excuses

Why is sharing personal faith so difficult? I know what I believe about Jesus Christ is true. I also know that people who reject Christ are in eternal peril. I care about those around me. Why should I hold back from telling them how they can have forgiveness, eternal life and a wonderful relationship with God?

Last night I started reading a book by Lou Priolo called Pleasing People: How not to be an “approval junkie.” The title might be light and catchy, but the content is not. In the preface, the author warns that this book will be convicting and biblical. I read chapter one. It is.

People-pleasing is first a pride thing. I want people to like me. As I closed the book and turned out the light last night, I asked myself why. Why does it matter? I want to please God more? Or do I? All I could come up with was that having people like me feels good and makes me look good. In other words, my reasons are all about me. That is hardly bottom-line spirituality.

This morning, my devotional guide offers a verse that ties in with what I read last night and adds another facet to this fear. Paul tells about his experience in jail and writes this: 

Most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:14)
In their hostile world, speaking about Jesus Christ could mean their freedom or even their life. Paul was in jail because he preached about Jesus. Most people will do what they can to avoid such physical confinement, yet as these believers saw Paul in jail and watched him remain faithful to share the gospel, they realized that God was still with him. As a result, most of them lost their fear of the repercussions and opened their mouths.

Most of them. That phrase catches my eye. It tells me that their fear about proclaiming Christ ran deep. The example of Paul helped most of them, but there were some who were still afraid. They knew that God was blessing Paul, but perhaps wondered if God would do the same for them. After all, Paul was a spiritual giant, a leader. Perhaps those in the “less than most” group were ordinary people, like me.

I could try to imagine being there, and imagine which group I would I have been in — the “most” of them, or the few that were still deeply self-protective? Such imagining is unproductive. I must examine myself in the light of what God asks of me right now, in this century, and in the situations where I find myself today.

Logic tells me that no one will throw me in jail for telling others about Christ. No one will haul me before a judge, and most people will not even be openly nasty if they don’t like it. My limited experience tells me that a few are interested in Jesus, not many, but a few. Most are indifferent or even clueless. Their eyes glaze over because they do not get it. They politely change the subject. Is that rejection? Not according to most definitions.

Logic says my pride is pointless. Logic says my fears are groundless. The Holy Spirit tells me that my silence is faithless and my selfishness is disobedience.

I’m rapidly backing myself into a Cross.

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