Have you ever known anyone who managed to work into nearly every conversation a suggestion that you should believe the way they do? Or the person who feels compelled to quote Scripture in even the most mundane of situations, like while ordering off the menu in a restaurant?
I respect people who are passionate about their faith. And I appreciate people who are bold enough to share it with others. But I think what turns many people off when the subject of God, religion, or faith comes up are people who are perceived as “shoving religion down their throats.”
I’m intimately aware of this because I used to be one of those people! When you find “medicine”that heals your wounds, you want to share it with others. When your broken, bleeding heart is restored and life is good, you want everyone to know about the source of the amazing restoration. The problem is that there is a time and a place for everything. And faith that is authentically lived out is attractive rather than repulsive, and it is far more lastingly persuasive than faith that is perceived to be obnoxious.
When Christians first turn their lives over to Jesus and begin to see amazing changes in their lives, they’re often apt to put the Jesus fish on their bumper and the “He Is Risen”sign on their front door. There is no problem with either of those actions UNLESS you’re not yet fully submitted to doing your best to live the life Jesus would have you live. When others see Christians who are doing the same things non-Christians do and making the same kinds of decisions that non-Christians do, the lives of those new Christians or “so-called”Christians speak much louder than do their words or the Jesus fish on the back of their car.
How do I know all this? Well, naturally, I had the Jesus fish on my bumper, the “He Is Risen”sign on my office cubicle, and the cross around my neck—all while I still let the rage inside me (rage that was the residual of abandonment and abuse) rule my behavior. I meant well, but any mention of Jesus likely drove people further away rather than drew them in for a closer look.
It’s been many years since I made the leap from “believing in Jesus”to giving Him my life and promising to cooperate with Him to do something good with it. Since then, I have learned to unapologetically share my faith while doing my best to live a life consistent with my words. (Until I was sure that I could do that reasonably well, I refused to wear a cross or have any other Christian identifiers.)
Until yesterday, it had been years since I grimaced about my behavior as an immature Christian. It all came back to me yesterday while I was attending a meeting that a dear friend asked me to join wherein she was going to make a big announcement to her family.
My friend had flown 3,000 miles to speak to her family. She wanted (maybe needed) their support. While she was speaking to the group of about 18 family members, laying the foundation for her announcement and building up to her big news, one of the family members decided that it would be a good time to focus on one sentence—six words to be exact—that my friend spoke. The one sentence was peripheral to the point of the meeting. But this family member stopped my friend and put her on the spot about that one inconsequential thing she’d said. The family member pulled out a Bible and began to quote Scripture and give a contextual lesson about the prophet who spoke those words some 4,000 years ago.
Meantime, some were clearly uncomfortable with the insertion of a Bible lesson. A couple of the family members had to get going, but they were eager to hear the big announcement. It appeared that some were unwilling to make waves by standing up to this very aggressive Christian; however, a couple of family members finally did intervene and the meeting went on, allowing my friend to make her announcement. As I was leaving, several family members shared their discomfort and even disdain for the one family member who probably perceived herself as boldly making a stand for Christ. As I drove away, I wondered how much damage well-meaning Christians do by failing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit on what to say and when to say it.
Do we insert talk about our faith, our experiences, or Scripture into conversations in an effort to help others? Or are there times when we do this to be in control? Or do we quote Scripture to show off our vast knowledge or how smart we are? After what I saw yesterday, I plan to pay more attention to the way I communicate my faith. I’m going to make a greater effort to live in a way that is attractive rather than obnoxious, a way that gives evidence of God in my life, including love, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, humility, and self-control. If I have to TELL you I’m a Christian rather than this being obvious from the way I live my life, I still have a long way to go
Rhonda Sciortino, author of The Prayer That Covers It All, was raised by atheists and introduced to Jesus by a foster parent when she was a child. Rhonda’s faith journey was influenced by her faith-filled high school typing teacher, the Lutheran pastor who baptized her, a Rabbi who taught her, the Baptist minister who invited her to a public profession of faith, a Pentecostal youth pastor whose prayers resulted in miraculous healing, the Church of Christ pastor who helped launch her career, a Norbertine Priest who encouraged her, and myriad friends from various denominations and non-denominational churches all over the US. Rhonda is a fully yielded believer in Christ who focuses on the words of Jesus.