In my Norwegian Artist’s younger years, he bicycled around a bit — from Alaska to Argentina, through Central America (for the geographically challenged, there is no ocean separating North and South America), then after a flight across the Caribbean to Florida, he and a buddy wended their way back to Oregon by heading north to New York, then westward ho.
But at some point, two small town boys found themselves in the midst of New York City, in a rough section of town, and given the option to purchase some recreational street drugs.
“No thanks,” they replied with youthful ardor. “We have something better than that.”
The dealer stopped and looked them in the eye. “Yeah, I know all about that. You got Jesus, right?” and then he moved on.
That encounter non-plussed the Norwegian, who later tells it:
How We Say It Matters
“That man taught me something I never forgot: obviously, he’d heard about Jesus many many times before, but not in a way that meant anything. He was actually fairly polite.
“And I realized how often we just say things — trite sentences — and feel like that is enough. It’s as if once we say something — no matter how we say something — that we’re off the hook somehow, and whether or not the person listening accepts our message, it’s not our fault.”
By the time the Norwegian Artist and I met, seven years later, the bicyclist of youthful ardor was a man of thought and perspective, and he could read every emotion on my face when a zealous college evangelist accosted me in a corner and proclaimed,
“Believe in Jesus NOW or burn for eternity!”
The Norwegian Artist and I started out as friends, companions who walked miles each evening after classes, talking about everything: life, God, Jesus, purpose, and eternity along with literature, good food, contemporary music, and cat people versus dog people. He took time to answer my questions, and when he didn’t know an answer, he readily admitted it. Life is full of mysteries that we will never comprehend on this side of the curtain.
Good Decisions Take Time to Make
The result of these hours of talking and getting to know one another was, in addition to our falling in love and marrying (Yay!), my becoming a Christian, not only because of the time the Norwegian Artist took to talk and truly be my friend, but also despite what the shouting evangelist he rescued me from did.
Many Christians are familiar with, and cowed by, The Great Commission, a term not in the Bible used to describe Matthew 28: 19, in which the risen Christ instructs His disciples,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
For too many Christians, the interpretation of this verse involves standing on busy street corners, handing out tracts; walking up to total strangers and saying, “I’d like to tell you about Jesus”; or randomly dropping phrases like, “It’s a God Thing,” or “Thank you, Jesus!” into informal conversations.
Can We Stop Bringing up the “Comfort Zone” Already?
When people express reluctance to participate in behavior that is distasteful, embarrassing, or awkward, they are told, “Jesus wants you to get out of your comfort zone!”
But actually, what Jesus wants is to do the will of His Father (John 4: 34), and the will of the Father is that “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2: 4).
Commonsense tells us that when we accost people, provoke people, or only interact with people because we want them to hear our words but are not particularly interested in making them a part of our lives, then our message is shallow, distant, and uninspiring.
Those last three adjectives definitely don’t describe the good news that Jesus brought to us, and wants us to bring to others:
God loves us. Crazy, insanely loves us. We do not have to undergo a series of intricately complicated ablutions to secure that love; we already have it. We just have to reach out and grab it, and we don’t even have to reach that far, because His hand is caressing our face.
That’s an amazing message.
As Christians, it’s worth taking time to 1) meditate upon the meaning of the message ourselves and 2) find a means of conveying it to others that is worth hearing.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where every Wednesday I write about Contempo Christianity. You can also find me at my BeliefNet Blog, Commonsense Christianity, where I post three times weekly. Recent articles there include
Is It Okay to Talk to the Grave of Your Loved One? (So many of us do it, secretly, because we don’t want others to scold us for how wrong we’re being. But are we really wrong?)
Christians: It’s Time to Read Grown-up Books (As a society, we are becoming less and less literate, and some of what we feed our minds with . . . doesn’t feed our minds. We don’t need to read “Christian” books; we need to read good books.)
This Article Really Isn’t about Sex (It isn’t. It’s about grace, mercy, and money.)