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Sunday, January 08, 2006

What do I think they think?

The point of this post: I don't want to just wave the flag of my own opinion to no purpose. I don't think that Christian's ought to be looking for trouble, you know, imagining persecution when there is only annoyance at their duplicity. I also don't think that Christians ought to be under the impression that unbelievers secretly admire them, unless this is true.

I also don't think that Christians who receive persecution due to the faithful proclamation of the gospel, ought to whine about that, but rather rejoice as Christ said.

It all started with the "Christmas, 1988, N Train" post below, taken from the BaylyBlog by permission. (This blog is that of Paster Tim Bayly of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Bloomington Indiana and his brother Paster David Bayly of Christ the Word Church in Toledo Ohio.) I don't read the New Yorker, and when I have seen New Yorker comics either on blogs, or whole calendars full of them, I generally don't get them. I am not a New Yorker, I guess. This post, however, I found completely fascinating and compelling.

This raises the question: What does the World think of Christians, Christianity, and God?

My reasoning: I do not think that Polycarp's accusers would actually burn him alive if they secretly admired him, and they certainly would not have filled a stadium with people anxious to see this spectical! Examples like Polycarp go on and on.

Personal experience: A discussion at work over lunch turned to Christian witness. One person present has a sister who is always bringing up church and Jesus to him. He spoke of his sister with contempt in his voice and face. This is a man whom I have never seen or heard referring to someone with contempt. This prompted another person to express hatred for people who try to convince others of the gospel (AKA: force their religion/morality on them). Again, this is a person who, at least in my presense, is generally soft-spoken and sweet. She spoke harsh words tinged with hatred.

At Planned Parenthood one day, when there was a Pro-Abortion protester present, I conversed with some of my fellow protesters about this young woman's motives. These other folks held the opinion that the opposition actually, at some level, sees the wisdom or rightness of the anti-abortion cause. This young woman and others on Thursday mornings have made gestures and comments, they go by shaking their heads in digust, they laugh at the anti-abortion protesters. As one who has been indoctrinated into the American Way over the past many years, spending more time in the kingdon of this world than in the Kingdom of God, I can say with certainty that these people are not on any level, seeing the point. They laugh not out of nervousness that they realize their error, but refuse to face it. They laugh because they recognize that we are fools. They shake their heads not because they are secretly resenting their inability to turn to what they know is right, but because they know we are complete idiots, and cannot fathom someone clinging to these archaic and socially harmful principles.

It doesn't matter what I think, though. What does the Word of God say? It is amazing that God made everything, and therefore is THE expert on what is, and how things work... When He has something to say about something, He is right.

Coming up: What does God say that the World thinks about us?


kyla said...

Ben and I have been struggling with an issue similar to your work experience. We meet many people at work - become friends with them. Yet do they know that we are Christians? How do we share the glorious and freeing truths of Christ with them without driving them to hate us? It's not that I fear being dispised, but doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? I don't know if there are any good answers, but I would love to hear your thoughts!

Rachel Pierson said...

Here's what I think, and I would like to hear from others, and in that list I would include people like Steve Moxey, just because I have heard of his personal witnessing:

I think that if we really believed what we say we do, we would be out on a busy street corner telling people about it. We would be sowing the seed freely! It is God who brings the increase, even if it is I who sow, and you who water.

I think the standing on the street corner or going door to door, humanly speaking, might be annoying, but then we would be leaving God out of Salvation, and, well I don't think we can do that. (Take a look at my post from February 2005 "Evangelism under the sovereignty of God" and from March 2005 "Ezekail's Warning to Israel and to me.") It might be that God is calling one of those passers by and you are the one giving the word.

If God is calling that person and you speak the words, they will turn to God, and they will love you. If God is not calling that person and you speak the words, they will become angry with your idea of God, and they will hate you.

How do you know which person is being called by God? You don't!

Do you see my struggle? Do you see my conviction? Do I love my neighbor more than myself?

If, however, you are free with the word in the place where God has placed you (work) and your conversation is simply salted with godly wisdom and praise for God's goodness. Humility and self sacrifice adorn your ways, then they may hate you, or if they are being called by God, they will turn to Him and love you.

I do think that to be that witness, God must be mentioned, though. Otherwise, you are avoiding the issue and letting your behaviour speak, which in the end is the same as denying Christ.

Thank you so much for thinking deeply about this. Thank you for your struggle with this at work.

Lauren said...

Kyla and Rachel, In my opinion, being despised does not defeat the purpose. Jesus, when He hung on the cross, was the most despised man in the world. Yet, when He allowed others to despise Him, He saved them. He allowed others to abuse Him for their sakes.

So how does this play out practically in our lives? We say those things that will cause others to despise us, but yet will give them a chance to hear of salvation. In other words, we love them. We put our desire to be friends with everyone aside and make enemies for the sake of the gospel-for the sake of their salvation.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not underestimating the power of the gospel through our actions and kindness. But let God do the work and let us be His vessels. To be a Christian is to be despised. But maybe I can be a bit more comforting: when I look back at my life when I was not a Christian, I can remember specific times when I put others down for telling me about Jesus (whether to their face or gossiping to others). When I spoke those vicious words, I knew I was lying. I knew that I did not really hate those people and I was not loving my neighbor for saying such harsh words about them. God was actually using my hatred for them to convict me of my sin. Now, did I understand that or would I have admitted that at that time? No- no way! But be encouraged, God can use anything to draw souls closer to Him, including their own hatred for others.
So, my sisters, speak boudly since we know the power and majesty of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May many more come, according to His divine providence, to know Him through our prayers, words, and actions.

Rachel Pierson said...

Well said, Sister. That is what I think too. What is it that clamps my mouth shut so tightly? It is the fear of the ones who can despise me and ridicule me or not be friendly to me; rather than the one who after killing my body can send my soul to hell.

Sometimes I have clarity in this, but where the rubber meets the road, I fail. Let us encourage one another to sow the seed abundantly, going forth in weeping. I understand what you are saying about friendship, but I think that that reasoning is below God. If we are living lives that reflect biblical principles, and we aren't grumblers or gossipers and always have joy and kind, encouraging words then we will be pleasant enough to be around (except the part about gossiping, that one will put you out of the loop; oh, and if you don't gripe about the boss, you're out, too.) However, if you are that same pleasant person, AND witness to God's glory and righteousness, and that He is the only true God, and that Jesus is the only way to Him, then suddenly it's a different ball game. THAT's the ball game I want to be in.

I think we need to be joyous people, and focussed. If we focus on Christ, and are continuous in prayer, and if the word of God lights our way, then we can, with joy share the gospel; and that joy will be consistent in the face of the fallout (like Timotheus previously mentioned).

Practically speaking:
I always worry about what I would say. I realize though that if I am grounded in the word of God, then God will give me the words, I need to open my mouth (Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what to say, that he would give them the words). I also realize that when I worry about what I would say, I am worried about three things: that I will appear foolish to others; that I will say the wrong thing, or not think of a good response; that I will blow the result.

Does this sound like pride? To worry about looking foolish is all about me. To worry that I will say the wrong thing or get an answer wrong is all about thinking it's all up to me and that I might look foolish, which is all about me. To worry that I will blow the result is to think that it is I who bring the increase and not God, that it is I who can save someone and not God.

God, forgive my pride and my misplaced fear. Help me to remember that it is all about you. Make me faithful in my prayer and Bible study so that I am saturated in your word. Also, give me opportunities to speak for you, give me your words to speak and strengthen my faith in you, my reliance on you and my love for you, your son and my neighbor. I thank you for my sisters who also have this burdon for the lost. Help us to encourage each other to be lamps on a stand and not hidden.
In Jesus name, Amen.