Clean foundation, or Unholy Mess?
Have you ever been eager to make a difference only to find yourself cleaning up someone else’s huge mess? A teacher can’t introduce an advanced curriculum if the previous teachers never taught the basics. Painting and decorating is pointless if the existing load-bearing walls of the house are sagging under the weight. Straight, new lines can’t be painted on freshly-poured asphalt if a careless road crew left it full of ruts and grooves. Or even worse – maybe the shoddy work came from your own hands.
By far, the most devastating is to labor in the wake of destructive witnesses for Christ. You can always tell when people have had negative encounters with some well-meaning, yet seriously misguided, evangelist. The next time these wary people hear the words Christian, Jesus or Bible, they cringe with the memory of someone screaming hell-fire and damnation. Or they cower, waiting for the judgment to crash over them yet again. Or they narrow their eyes, wondering if this new Jesus Freak is as big a hypocrite as the last ones who lived in total opposition to what they preached. Or worse, maybe you’ve actually been one of these harmful witnesses, turning people away from, instead of towards, God’s grace and mercy. Sadly, our witness as believers is often more repelling than compelling because we fail to remember HOW we are to share God’s love.
“But in your hearts revere 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (emphasis added)
You may be prepared to discuss your faith in Christ, but can you do it gently and respectfully towards your listeners? It breaks my heart to remember the many times I’ve failed in this. I wish I could personally apologize to everyone reading this post who has been bashed over the head instead of embraced as a person who is immeasurably precious to Jesus. What you should have been told was this: He loves you absolutely and longs for a relationship with you. Please forgive our bungling attempts at sharing Jesus, who loves us even though we acted like idiots and marred His holy image in your eyes. I hope you will look not to us, but instead look with us towards Christ…He is still waiting for you.
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