Good morning, Mini-Women! Today is Puppy Day at my house. Only 6 3/4 hours until Guinness and Geneveve come home to live with us. It's like being five years old on Christmas Eve! I love that God gives us these kinds of joys.
One of the biggest joys God gives us is, of course, God Himself! At Christmas time we talked about why we had such reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to show us how to have a real relationship with God. And all during this Epiphany season we've shared those Oh-I-Get-It moments when God turns on a light in our head and we know something for sure that was invisible to us before. (BTW -- I'm sure Guinness -- on the left -- and Geneveve -- on the right -- are having a lot of those moments as they explore and slobber and chew and climb)
We COULD just wrap our arms and hearts and thoughts around those joys and keep them secret and feel pretty good about our sweet selves compared to all those people who just don't get it. We COULD -- but that isn't, of course, what we're SUPPOSED to do. From your response to the "voting" on which topic to talk about next, I know you've already figured that out. While all four topics got lots of votes (there were 32 in all and we'll get to each of them), "How do I talk to my friends about God without sounding like a goody-goody?" was the most popular. Jesus pretty much made it clear that we have to do SOMETHING for the people who are clearly clueless about God.
"God authorized and commanded me to commission you," he told his disciples before he ascended into heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). Which means, basically, "I got this straight from God and I'm passing it along to you. It's not a suggestion -- it's, like 'do it.'"And those orders were:
"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life. Instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you." Which means, "You've got people in your life, right? Show them how to love God -- how to love each other -- how to see themselves as children of God. Just like I have shown YOU."
So we know that's what we NEED to do. Nobody's arguing with that. (I guess they could, but it would be pretty pointless, yes?) The problem seems to be in HOW to do it. I mean, seriously, if you're a preacher, people expect you to talk to them about God. But if you're, say ten years old -- or 8 or 9 or 11 or 12 -- it's a whole different thing. The very people in your life -- mostly kids -- who need to hear about God because they haven't already (or it obviously didn't exactly sink in) are usually:
* absurd little creep boys (ALCs) who would gladly humiliate you in front of the entire lunch crowd in the school cafeteria
* really mean girls (RMGs) who would turn your witness into a bully fest without so much as batting an eyelash
* the "cool kids" who one-on-one might actually listen, but in a group can't admit that there could be anything cool about making God the center of your life -- and will thus make you feel like THE most UN-cool kid on the planet
That would be hard enough. But sometimes the people who most need what you know about loving God are actually your friends. That's when it gets REALLY tough, because, while you don't really care whether some ALC is turned off by your Christian-ness, you don't want to chance messing up your comfortable friiendship with your BFF. And yet SHE is the person you REALLY want to know God because you are experiencing what it's like to live in God-love, and you want her to have that, too, more than anybody. No matter what anyone tells you, it isn't easy.
Let's talk for a minute about WHY it isn't easy. It all makes perfect sense to you, right -- loving God, becoming close to him the way Jesus teaches us to be so that, as KEITHTISHA put it, "we're practically on his lap." You can't figure out why anybody wouldn't want that. It isn't just "Good News" -- it's Incredible News!" Unfortunately, many, many people before you have made the Good News of the Gospel sound anything but Good. Christians have approached it with things like this:
* "If you don't believe in Jesus, you're going to hell."
* "If you want to be a Christian, you have to be perfect, which isn't that much fun but it's what's required."
* "Christians don't hang out with non-Christians or listen to secular music or see any movies that aren't rated G or ...)" (the list of thou shalt nots goes on)
* 'You're a dirty, low-down sinner. You'll still be a sinner if you're saved, but you'll be forgiven. You'll never be good enough on earth, but just wait 'til you die. Then it'll be great."
That's a pretty twisted version of what Jesus came to tell us -- of what Jesus is -- and of what our relationship with God is all about. If I heard that stuff today, and I wasn't already a Christian, I wouldn't be all excited about becoming one!
So, even if you have never said those kinds of things to people and you never intend to, the minute you DO start talking about your faith to somebody, he or she may THINK that's where you're going, so they cut you off before you even have a chance to say, "No, seriously -- this is great stuff! Hear me out!"What's the solution? I think it's the first step in the process of sharing your faith with "everyone you meet". We'll discuss all the steps in the weeks to come, but today let's focus on this one. It goes something like this (from the words of St. Augustine -- or was it St. Francis? I'll have to check!) :
"Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words."Between now and next Tuesday, let's try this: around the person or group of people you'd like to talk to about God, don't talk about Him at all (unless somebody just comes right out and asks, of course). Just focus on SHOWING that you love God and that that makes a difference in how you behave and live your life. What might that look like?
* You could stop a piece of gossip before it goes any further.
* Include that girl everybody avoids because she's annoying or smells kind of funny
* Refuse to laugh at the kid who's making a total fool of himself and doesn't even know it
* Write an encouraging note to the teacher everybody's giving a hard time to
* Let somebody else be first
This doesn't mean that you'll NEVER talk about your faith to people. This is just a first step. While you're at it, don't even point out to everybody, "Hey, do you see me being wonderful here?" Just do it. People will notice. Some might even ask, "So -- why are you so nice to her? She's weird." Then you can say, "It's the God-thing to do." Period. End of statement. This will NOT make you a geek. There is nothing uncool, nerdy, or lame about being a girl of God, who tries to live the way she's being shown by Him. Just as there is nothing truly cool about gossiping, showing off, being rude, and excluding people who don't have iPods and cell phones and three pairs of Ugs in various colors.
Between now and Tuesday, then, if you want to post, tell us what you're doing to "preach the Gospel" without saying a word. Post as many times as you want as your story unfolds. You'll all encourage each other to try more and more stuff. I personally am going to love it, and I think you will, too. Go for it -- and enjoy witnessing without words!
Oh, and one more thing. In that same passage of Scripture, from Matthew, Jesus reassures us about something very important. He says, "I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day." (28:20) You're not alone. Not only do you have all of us praying for you. Yiu have Him saying, "Yeah. Now that's what I'm talkin' about."
Nancy Rue PS Welcome Beth and Miriam!