In my last post, in writing about the importance of authenticity and relevance in our personal faith, especially as we hope others receive faith, in part, through us, I closed: “Respectfully, my discussion isn’t about questioning your salvation or your love for God, which I have no reason to doubt; if you are a believer, praise God!” If your faith in God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–brings you joy and peace, and a sense of contentment within life, it is real for you, which is awesome! (last post–http://peacewithinreach.com/so-whats-your-point-fred/)
Still, a further question of great importance remains, especially as you have loved ones whom you hope will receive personal faith in God and you may be influential upon them receiving faith, and as you answer God’s call to share the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20): As others know you, can they sense in you a personal connection with God that is life-guiding, peace-giving, and in their eyes, relevant for today? (Last time I used Google dictionary’s definition for “relevance”—the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.) The last part of that question is especially challenging for many of us, including me. In today’s world, new ideas keep arising, and society seems to keep pushing what we feel are appropriate ethical boundaries, and we meet kind people, but who adhere to different traditions and religions than which we do. As some of these people are our own loved ones, it’s hard not to come across as defensive, perhaps even as offensive as we seek to protect Truth and our personal understandings within which we feel comfortable, and at the same time, desire that they themselves become safe within that Truth. Other times, we just never seem to get to conversations with some depth, like spirituality. Eventually, surface conversations get old.
Here are a few suggestions for developing a relevant faith in the eyes of others:
- The 4th chapter in my book, A Search for Common Ground: Let’s Talk, is titled “Anchored and Unsure” (http://peacewithinreach.com/my-books/). After discussing the possibility that various understandings of the origin of the world (God as Creator & evolution) can be in harmony with each other, I propose that we can safely be grounded on a seemingly slippery slope. We can trust in God’s protection in these cases, as we often read and seek to understand His word, and honor that word–Bible–as God’s truth. Personally, I got out of balance in my readings as I prepared for writing my book; I read much by evolutionary atheists and a few far-left-leaning authors as I wanted to learn about their perspectives, and not so much by others, and I didn’t feel well for a while; I got out of balance. So, first stay grounded in God’s word…….
- Then be willing to learn. That sense of openness, interest, and curiosity in ideas and in the grandeur of God’s creation, and in the amazing possibilities of how He may have created, will cause you to be understood as more relevant to many than if you are viewed as close-minded if you only agree with a young-earth/24-7 view of creation and perhaps mock other views. Those whom you hope hear you, may see what seems like your non-interest in scientific thought, and they won’t really listen to you.
- Let’s not come across as defensive, or offensive. If Jesus is your master, reflect the fruits (Galations 5:22) of the Holy Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control–in your discussions.
- Genuine kindness, generosity, love, and compassionate are always good.
- Pray often, including that God guides you to opportunities for good discussions and for sharing.
- Understand your place, that God is the heart surgeon and believers in Him are to be his nurses. Nurses are important, but the heart surgeon is the one who actually changes the “heart” and the spirit of a person toward Him (1 Corinthians 3:6). Find rest and peace in that fact.
- Share the Gospel personally; show concern if you believe others are heading to Hell. A friend of mine who has gone through de-conversion from faith recently wrote on Facebook: “If Christians really believe in Hell, and if they really believe that anyone who doesn’t share their perspective will end up there, why don’t we see more Christians urgently trying to change people’s minds? If I were to see a fire headed towards my neighbor’s house, wouldn’t I let them know? Wouldn’t it be selfish and immoral to not try and spare everyone from such a horrible fate?” This former Christian makes an excellent point.
This is all a work in progress for me. I often am intrigued by my conversations with Muslim and Hindu people lately, especially through my work as a workplace chaplain at Smithfield Foods. It is quite easy for me to reflect the fruits of the Holy Spirit, listed in a bullet-point above, but I need to pray more regularly that conversations go beyond mere pleasantries, etc. Then, when those conversations offer some depth, I am seeking to grow at asking good questions, which are respectful, yet thought-provoking. As well, I believe all people are made in God’s image, so they are designed by God to be spiritual and to have the capacity to know God. I see this in people as they are often interested in spiritual conversation and in spiritual things. I have a lot of room for growth in this opportunity-area, and it’s not so difficult as I find that people who are different from me are often kind and interesting.
On the other end of the spectrum, I am often in conversations with strongly right-leaning people, and I am just not there. Can I hold my own without being too defensive, or offensive? I know some of you readers, who are my siblings in Jesus, are definitely more right-leaning than I am. I hope we can have good discourse together, most of all to help each other in being relevant Gospel-bearers to those on whom we have influence.
Thank-you for who you are! Thank-you for your interest in what I write! — Fred W.