Sunday, May 13, 2007

friend to friend

I have been really trying to learn from non-believers what their experiences have been with Christians who have tried to share their faith with them. I'm reading some books from Jim Henderson, that I highly recommend, who asks non-believers to go to church with him and tell him what they think of the whole experience. It's a great resource for churches and anyone wanting to discuss Jesus with people.

I'm trying to learn more about this because I believe it's what being a Christian is all about. It's not about getting out of going to hell, although that is a blessing I don't deserve. It's not about having a crutch that helps me explain away all the unexplainable parts of existence, because I have more questions now than before, they're just different. I'm not a Christian so I can look down on the rest of the world and feel better about myself. I'm not a Christian so I can point fingers at people and condemn them for things that I'm sure I’m doing right alongside them.

I'm a Christian because I have faith that the God of the Bible really exists and that what the Bible says about Him is true. I am a Christian because I see myself as a sinner who can't follow the Laws that were established long before me; Laws that, if everyone followed them, would have our world at peace. I am a Christian because I believe that God sent His Son, a part of Himself, to be born in an incredibly humble way, who actually did follow the Laws in a way that broke many man-made traditions, who was man and God at the same time, who called the religious leaders at the time hypocrites, who - because of threatening the hold the religious leaders had over the people - was nailed to a tree (a cursed death) and died, who later appeared to people after His resurrection, which strengthened the men who saw Him in their assurance of what they 'preached' and their mission to tell the world that its Savior had been revealed.

The first church, these first followers of Jesus, had one goal in mind: to tell the world about Him. They did this by going from town to town, eating and being sheltered only at the merciful hands of the townspeople, telling the people there about Jesus and equipping them to further the message in their town. Then they'd move on to the next town.The number one goal of these Christians was to spread the news of Jesus. To establish places where the people could go to learn more about Him. Then those people would be equipped to go out to their respective social circles and tell their friends about Him.

We all know that the best marketing technique is word of mouth. If a customer is pleased with the services of a particular business and tells a friend, that person is likely to try it out based on their trusted friend's opinion. We do that. We trust personal experience over roadside billboards and badly written commercials. Jesus knew that the best way to have His message of salvation spread to the ends of the earth was to have friends tell friends.

I've tried this several times. I suck at it. Honestly. I've insulted a dear friend's intelligence and assumed they hadn't really tried to find God or research it for themselves. I've not learned how to explain some things without using church-lingo which to those who don't attend church seems like a foreign language. I have a hard time saying "I don't know," opting rather to try to explain something I have no authority or ability to explain for the sake of not having any breaks in my argument. But I'm not God, and I don't have access to the knowledge of everything. My understanding is going to have holes. And so are non-believers'. Science can only prove so much, and it is changing with every new advance to understand this world we live in. At one point, the world was convinced the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around us. Who knows? Perhaps in another decade we will be able to definitively know what happened to the dinosaurs or how to cure cancer.

One thing I don't ever think we'll be able to do is prove the existence of God. The Bible puts great emphasis on having 'faith.' If we could prove the existence of God, there'd be no need for this faith. I cannot ever really say that I know without a doubt that there is a God. Yeah, you read that right. A self-professing Christian just said she can't know for a fact that God exists. If I could, the whole world could too, but that's not happening. No one can deny that grass is green or that it's cold in Antarctica. If God could be proven to exist, it would have happened by now, I believe, and there wouldn't be any non-believers.

I have faith, hope, that He exists. I can't know. But I can tell you, as a friend, that I have experienced a life-change since I first started hoping. Since I admitted I couldn't do this life without the guidance, protection, and forgiveness of a Higher Power, my life has become remarkably easier. I have a peace that I didn’t have before. I have a strength I didn't have before. I have a reason to wake up every morning. I can feel loved when everyone around me treats me like I’m worthless. I can feel significant even when no one seems to acknowledge me.

Why would God keep Himself ‘invisible’ to a watching world if His goal was to have His people know Him? Well, I think His heart’s desire is for us to love Him. The Bible says God is love. Love is very important to Him. And not that counterfeit kind of love that is so prevalent here that says you’ll receive love once you do something for someone else, and if you make a mistake, it can be taken from you. That’s not love. Our definition of and experience with love pales in comparison with the love God has to offer us. It’s a love that exists just because. It’s a love that doesn’t weaken or disappear when we fail to meet expectations. It’s a love that doesn’t discriminate if you think differently than another. It’s a love that exists even if you don’t reciprocate it! This is so foreign to us that we doubt it’s possible. It sounds lovely and many have expressed their desire to know this kind of love but have yet to see many examples. We tend to withdraw our love when we feel our emotions waning. God’s love isn’t like this at all, and for that I am eternally grateful.

So why isn’t this unconditional love seen more if God is love and we Christians are supposed to act like Jesus? Because we fail miserably at it. Not all, just most, I think. Mother Theresa comes to mind, so I’m not going to put us all in a box and stamp the word ‘failed at love’ on it. We still have human eyes and human hearts, and our perspective doesn’t align with God’s will more often than not. God would not be so invisible if we followed His commandments more closely. A lot of non-believers can’t see God because we Christians not representing Him well. We get distracted by our own urges and desires (made strong because Satan knows our weak spots) and forget to consider how God would want us to behave.

If you loved me because you had to, because I demanded it, well then, I wouldn’t feel very loved. I would want you to WANT to love me. Yeah, now you know I’m a female. (Honey, I want you to want to do the dishes…Heck, I don’t want to do the dishes!) But if you loved me in response to who I was to you, I’d really feel loved. I think God wants us to love Him because of who He is, not just out of obligation or fear. When you start to understand Him, it’s like you’re compelled to love Him. When you are compelled to love Him, you want the world to know Him and experience this great love. You know that this kind of love doesn’t exist here, but you know where to find it. Since you love God, you love His creation, namely people. Since you love them, you want what’s best for them, and you try to introduce them to God so they too can know this perfect love. It’s contagious really. At least it should be. When God loves, it is perfect. When I love, it’s not so perfect. I’m trying, but I’m not God! He loves me just because. He loves me despite myself. He loves me when I intentionally choose to disobey Him. He knows what’s best for my life and wants to bring that to me. It may not be what I thought was best for my life, but I trust that God knows far better than I do.

So this entry is a small way of telling you, friend to friend, about the love of God and how good it is. I would love for you to know it. To feel how truly incredible it can feel to know you are loved no matter what.

I’m trying to learn how to say this to people I meet, not just hide behind my computer from the comforts of my home. I don’t want to misrepresent God’s love to anyone because I wouldn’t want to get in the way of them experiencing God’s love. I know you will feel compelled to love Him back when you experience His love for yourself, and I want His heart’s desire to come true.

My daughter has a great way of telling people about God. She runs down the hallways of doctor’s offices and down the aisles of grocery stores announcing that “Christ died on the cross to save you from your sins.” She’s done this countless times in the last few months. She tells everyone. I wish I had her personality sometimes. She feels loved by God and wants you to feel it too. She wants you to understand what her God did for you, and she wants you to love Him like she does. She thinks He’s worth it. She’s not hesitant. She’s not afraid. She’s not embarrassed. She just openly shares this with the people she loves, namely everyone she comes in contact with. My daughter is extraordinary in this. She witnessed to a lady at shoe store recently. The lady couldn’t quite understand what she was saying, so she asked me to clarify. I smiled and admitted that she was witnessing to her. Her face lit up and she said “well then, I want to hear all about it.” And she did. She sat there as Gillian just poured out everything she knows about God until she got distracted by a pair of Disney Princess sneakers that light up when they hit the floor. Who knows? Perhaps this was the first time that lady’s heart had been opened to receiving this information. Perhaps she had heard it many times and that she has Christ as her Savior and was just encouraging my daughter in her evangelism. Perhaps she was responding to my daughter’s apparent love for her. Either way, I was so proud of Gillian and inspired to try to better my evangelism style.

Glory to the Father and the Son, Jesus, Lover of my Soul!

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