Jesus, Take the Conversation

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One of the best parts about college is that you can have late night conversations without your parents telling you to go to bed. These conversations, while often enjoyable and filled with laughter, aren’t always so.

In one, I listened to a friend of mine tell me about how he was frustrated in his efforts to connect with girls, pausing only to wipe tears off his face and sniff some cocaine off the corner of a credit card.

In another conversation about what kind of relationships we wanted, whether true love exists, etc., a girl talked about how she thinks relationships should be built upon the people connecting on an emotional level. All the while I was thinking about how she was in a relationship with an older guy built entirely upon sex.

A third friend confided in me one night that he didn’t know if he would be able to return to school the next year because his gpa wasn’t high enough to maintain his scholarship.

In all three moments (as well as many other similar situations), I felt as anyone would: I wanted to comfort, offer reassurances, and provide some measure of hope that things would be okay. I remember thinking to myself during these instances that I should attempt to offer the good news of Jesus. What better opportunity to introduce someone to the saving power of Christ than in times when they are in desperate need of it?

I never did, for a combination of reasons. For starters, I just didn’t know what to say. I was aware that it would have been tactless to say something along the lines of, “Well, my friend, there’s no denying that this situation sucks. You should know, however, that you are a sinner saved by Christ and by accepting that you don’t really have anything to worry about.”

Another reason I never tried to offer the Gospel to my suffering friends was that I was scared. I didn’t want them to dismiss me as a Bible-thumping Christian. Like Peter after the Crucifixion I was ashamed of my affiliation with Jesus. It’s easy to theorize about how to evangelize in Bible study or hear about the ministry of the apostles in a sermon at Church, but when I’m actually in a position to deliver the Gospel, I often don’t do a good job. Like many Christians, I struggle between caring how my friends perceive me and how God calls us to act. But an encouraging truth is that we do not (and indeed should not) need to worry about being a perfect Christian. The vast majority of Christians are not seasoned clergy—meaning we do not have to deliver the world’s best sermon—but we do need to to share the message of the Gospel as best we can. However, anyone who has tried to share the Gospel knows, that this is often easier said than done.

The good news the Bible tells us is that there’s no point in despairing. While it is hard to evangelize anywhere in a world that increasingly does not want to hear the Word (especially in college) talking about God is not a hopeless task. When God calls his people to evangelize, it is He who is doing the work, not them. In Matthew, Jesus charges his disciples to go out and spread His message. He warns the twelve men that they often will be unwelcome where they go. Jesus tells them to not worry about what they will say when they are brought before authorities and have to explain themselves; He goes with them. As it says in Matthew 10:20, “For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Accepting that relieves some of the pressure that we may feel when we encounter the daunting task of talking about Jesus with others.

However, there are actions we can take to make the process easier. In an article  on how to better share faith, Tim Keller says believers don’t need more training in discipleship (although that helps), but rather a “proper motivation arising from a grasp of the gospel—that we are sinners saved by grace.” This “proper motivation” comes from regarding God as our loving Creator and savior with whom we are in constant communication, rather than just a protective force we got to in times of hardship. Only that type of relationship opens up our hearts to let Jesus work within us.

While profound moments do come along where we can witness, we would do better to focus on daily prayer and spending more time in Scripture. Spending more time in communion with God prepares us to carry out His will. As far as interacting with other people, Keller says we need to cultivate compassion for others: “The biggest reason we keep our mouths shut is that we’re failing in love for them.” This love might look different than we think. Inviting someone to a Bible study is good, but spending time doing an activity like going on a walk or grilling out can be just as effective, if not more so, in building a relationship that a trust in God can grow out of.

At some point, it comes down to being intentional about wanting to spread the Gospel. We have to be willing to interact with people as who they are, not the person we think they should be. Recognizing that we need the Holy Spirit to work through us to accomplish this is essential. It is only through growing our own faith and relationship with Jesus that we will lead others to Him.

 

 

 

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