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My heart broke last week as I watched one horrific event after another unfold on the news. It was not just the bombing of the Boston marathon but earthquakes and poisonous letters and shootings and universities being evacuated due to bomb threats that brought me to my knees.
I know terrible things happen around the world all the time, but disasters seemed to escalate last week. It reminded me how desperately this world needs Jesus. And guess what? Showing Jesus to the world is our job.
We know we are called to be salt and light, and we know we are commanded to love one another. But what does that look like? There is a passage in Scripture that tells us how to be Jesus to the world, and it is one of my all-time favorites.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:9-18, ESV).
I started memorizing this passage because it helps me live out my daily prayer, which is that others might see Christ in me. It is easy to let your heart be hardened because of things you experience, but the hard task we face is loving others regardless of how they treat us.
I remember peers in high school making fun of me for listening to only Christian music and not swearing. It was hard to fit in because I didn't party on the weekends or drink alcohol. I could walk over to a group of friends in the middle of a conversation, and they would stop talking. They would announce that their conversation wasn't appropriate for a Christian to overhear.
College was a much different experience. I attended a Christian university, and I was spoiled for four years by its godly community. If you currently attend a Christian college, I urge you not to take its community for granted. Use it as a time to strengthen your faith because you will need that solid foundation once you graduate.
Most of the people I interact with now on a daily basis are not Christians, and it is a lonely road to walk down sometimes. It feels like a constant struggle to build relationships with those who don't share my faith. I feel like I'm back in high school, but those teenagers are now adults. Instead of mocking my values, they respect them, but they also feel the need to tread lightly around me so as not to offend me.
It upsets me because I just want to get to know people for who they are, whether our lifestyles match up or not. The last thing I want is for people to feel like I'm judging them. I try so hard not to be that kind of Christian because I know I'm not perfect. Even so, I still feel held back at an arm's length sometimes.
But no matter how close people let me get, I try to point them to Jesus through my actions. I have become a prayer warrior for those in my life who don't know Him, and I try to let my actions speak louder than words. I want to live out what Paul wrote in Romans 12:21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." If we dedicate ourselves to living in a way that shows Jesus to the world, we can be light in a world filled with much darkness.
How do you relate to those in your life who don't know Jesus, and how are you Jesus to your corner of the world?
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"Showing Jesus to the world is our job", but changing hearts is the job of the Holy Spirit. We should always be mindful of that.
I relate to those in my life who don't know Jesus by treating them exactly like the people in my life who do: with dignity, respect and kindness. I don't treat them like projects or special interests, but I also don't shy away from discussing matters of faith or what I believe. I think we often fall into this trap of an "elistist" Christian attitude, like somehow by virtue of being saved by grace and believing in Christ we are "better" than the people around us -- but that message is exactly contrary to the message of the Gospel. I look for ways I can love and serve Christians and Non-Christians alike -- and I think that opens up a lot more doors to me to share my faith in an authentic and meaningful way than acting like people need to change who they are around me to support their beliefs. If you need your beliefs to be "supported" go to your church. Otherwise, recognise that *you* are the stranger in a strange land, not them. That might mean learning not to wince when you hear someone drop the f bomb in casual conversation, and it might mean having a meaningful conversation about why you are't going to see a movie rather than just having it be generally accepted that _No One_ is going to see that film. It means having developed and well formed opinions about your own faith you can draw on, and being educated on the faiths of others. Paul talks about being all things to all people that he might win some -- that doesn't mean adopting the sinful practices of the world, or abusing your convictions so you can "fit in" but it does mean acknowleding that your way is YOUR way and that people who don't subscribe to your morals and worldviews aren't going to be persuaded by simply saying "the bible says." It means learning what the modern "Jew and greek and slave and free" think on issues and being able to have a meaninful conversation with them where they feel valued and free to authentically participate.
You make some great points, MrsAshleyTOF. I have some great friends who aren't Christians, and I treat them exactly the same way I treat my Christian friends. The difference is that I grew up with them, and so we have some common ground. I don't in any way view non-Christians as projects. I pray for them certainly, but as MikeTime said, the Holy Spirit is the one who changes hearts. The best I can do is try to be a good example no matter who I'm around, but sometimes I struggle with being able to get closer to people who don't share my faith. My town is small, and my church is small. There are not a lot of people left in my town who are my age, and of those my age who haven't moved away for college or jobs, not very many are Christians. I find myself in a position of having a lot of acquaintances but very few close friends because of lifestyle differences. It's hard sometimes. I've had people tell me that my life is more "innocent" than theirs and that they don't want to offend me. But the thing is, I don't get offended, and that's what I struggle with getting people to understand. I let people be themselves, and I don't criticize them if they swear around me or see a movie I would never watch or tell a crude joke. I'm not in any way a "Bible-thumping" Christian, but just knowing I'm Christian makes some people uncomfortable even if I haven't said a word about the Bible. Maybe it has something to do with experiences they had with Christians in the past, I don't know. Don't you ever feel like people treat you a little differently when they find out you're a Christian even if you've never called them out on something? How do you deal with that and try to be more relatable to that person who might be keeping you at a safe distance?
MrsAshley, you just wrote my reply for me! I want to add something that my pastor's wife likes to say: "Don't be surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers." That has changed the way I view the unsaved people I come into contact with, and changed the way I react to the things they do.
It is His Spirit within us,that leads us to be an example to the world.We are the light that isn't put under a bushel,or under a bed.
Amy, like you, I've been treated differently by colleagues because they knew I was a Christian. At first, I hated it. I wanted to fit in, but lunchtime conversation instantly changed when I walked into the teacher's lounge. But some fellow Christians encouraged me to view this as a positive thing; colleagues knew I had a good reputation--not that I would judge them, but that I didn't appreciate the constant sexual innuendos (and like you, I never said anything about it). I was different, and yep, Christians should be different. But sometimes I didn't like it. It's almost like people have instant guilt when they know they're near a Christian.
But like you mentioned, I just lived as best I could to be a light. Colleagues knew me as being genuine and real--with faults and all. I never thumped the Bible, and they respected me, as I respected them. I'm now on a different continent, and there were no "come to Jesus moments," but I view it as a "success" if people can see that Christianity is not a holier than thou religion. I've heard people talk about sharing the gospel as a spectrum. On the one extreme are people who've never met a Christian and have never heard of Jesus, on the other extreme, committed Christians who are actively sharing the gospel. Our job is to help move people along the spectrum (of course the Holy Spirit is at work in this). I've realized that often in the States it's meant moving colleagues/friends from a false view of the gospel (Bible thumping) to a genuine understanding of Christianity and Christians. I pray for other Christians to come alongside these colleagues and help move them from knowing to believing!
I've also done a lot of listening to my non-Christian friends and colleagues. Something that I've heard frequently is pain from some holier-than-thou-"Christian" who told them they were going to Hell. Understandably, this caused them to have no desire to be a Christian and no desire to learn anything about Christianity. Sometimes the media even antagonizes this by displaying news about some wacko/psycho woman who brands her child because "God" told her to do so. I've shared in their pain, sadness, and horror over these things and have explained that it's wrong and NOT what the Bible teaches. A Christian who TRULY understands the gospel cannot be condescending because we HAVE to admit WE're not perfect. That's the crux of the gospel, the whole reason we need Jesus in the first place.
God is so good. It's so exciting to see Him open doors! Gal. 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
A very daunting thought that I might be Jesus to my corner of the world :/ I have never been successful at taking the message to anyone. I try but i never say the right things. The closest Ive come was recently when I broke off a relationship because I was heading down the road of compromise. My decision hurt the other person, but when i explained that I was so changed by the love of Christ in my life that I couldn't possibly go any further without a loss of relationship with Christ, she responded with almost a sense of jealousy over that relationship. We haven talked since but I learned from that moment that confessing my love and passion for Christ will always be the most effective tool for the advancement of the kingdom. Everyone is searching for love. I think this is the best way for me to relate to everyone, believers and non-believers alike.
I am in college and I am currently going through the same thing. I have learned that people do in a sense feel very stand offish once they realize that Im a christian or if I make a comment reffering to the bible. When I was not saved I tended to do the same thing because of the mere fact that I have actually had friends who claimed to be christians but it definitely did not show in their actions and because of that I had alot doubt that maybe all christians were the same way. I met a friend well my besfriend now, who was a steadfast christian and through it all she never judged me or pushed me to the side or completely reject me when it came to certain things , instead she will tell me to please pray with me and everythig will be ok...It was at that moment when I prayed I changed my life and I gave my life to christ. In my walk, because I am in college my people test me on a day to day basis. At first I was like ok maybe theyre not asking me to go certain places because I was christian or did anything with me because I wasn't going to subdue to their wishes.
The trick is you have to actually confront them about it and let them know who you are and that you dont want them to feel a certain way about you just because you are christian. There should be a form of respect but it plays out both ways wether they are saved or not saved. I pray for my friends or people that may judge me just because of that reason and the Lord always plays his part and at the end of the day those same people give their life to him.
Not implying you treat people like Projects, Amy, but I've known plenty of well meaning folk who do!
" Don't you ever feel like people treat you a little differently when they find out you're a Christian even if you've never called them out on something? How do you deal with that and try to be more relatable to that person who might be keeping you at a safe distance?"
Probably the most extreme version of this was once at my old job at lunch when I was sitting around the table during the 2007 primary election cycle leading up to the 2008 election and someone basically asserted that they just couldn't understand how anyone could vote for someone "so uninformed" that they don't believe in [macro]evolution. I had some things to contribute to the conversation and noted that while I don't particularly believe that it should be legislated, I very firmly adhere to my own faith. I noted that it takes a person of principle to stand by controversial issues and that although microevolution has been observed and documented, many parts of macroevolution remain conjecture. (I should also add that I HATE the evolution/creation debate and find that really, for me personally, it has very little bearing on how I interact with God. No matter how he created me, he did and whether Genesis is literal or metaphorical it makes no difference that I am a sinner in need of a savior). I also noted that very little legislation is actually made on the basis of what one believes about creation, and that modern economic policies were probably worth more consideration than a politician's limited opinion on theoretical physics. He noted what I had to say, said his own piece and there was really no drama at all.
That being said, I don't go out of my way to "announce" my faith, generally. It is just an extension of who I am, so I guess I never really have noticed people treating me differently -- unless you mean other Christians. Once I was about to leave an office, where my office mates knew me well, but other people didn't neccessarily. A couple days before I left, a fellow I didn't know well at all approached me with a tract and let me know that he didn't like crossing paths with folks without them knowing about the gospel. I thanked him for his concern and let him know that I sang in the worship band at my church, the fellow sitting next to me volunteered with his kids' youth group, the guy across from me was heavily involved in marriage ministry at a large area church and the girl catycorner from me was raised in church as well. ;)
In those rare instances where someone finding out that I'm a Christian has been a negative experience, I find that that experience can be mitigated through prolonged exposure. I can prove to the gay coworker that I don't hate him and I'm not "anti-gay" because I love Jesus and go to church by, again, treating him with respect, dignity and kindness. I can set people who are walking on eggshells at ease by letting them know that yes, Arrested Development IS a funny show. If you act like being a Christian is A BIG DEAL and project that it's this HUGE THING like it's some kind of product you're marketing people are going to treat you funny. My husband has, for example, a woman in his office that keeps a swear jar and regularly contests other people's acceptance of the gospel because they don't use her terminology. Yes, people treat her differently. But if you act like being a Christian is just a logical extension of who you are, like the fact that you drive a sedan, live in an apartment and convert O2 to CO2, then even the most "hardened" "anti-Christian" is going to acception as a reasonable and decent person (at the least) over time. ;)
Let's leave the "being Jesus" part to Jesus and be ourselves. We can point people to Jesus, but we can never BE Jesus to people. We can show them love, compassion, truth, etc. But we will never be able to bring the change, healing, forgiveness, etc. that this world needs - that's Jesus.
I kind of disagree with you. I think that being a Christian is more than just having a "logical extension" of myself. If in fact that were true, I could just disconnect that extension and be "normal." But in reality, being a Christian is my identity in that now my Father is God. My faith is part of me. I don't know if the way I read your post was exactly the way you meant it but it was confusing to me.
Also I disagree with your last statement that says, "...even the most "hardened" "anti-Christian" is going to acception as a reasonable and decent person (at the least) over time." My own family has proven this wrong. You see, Jesus clearly said the world will hate us. John 17:19 says, "If you were of the world the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." My own extended family is proof of this. My aunts and uncles and even grandparents on one side of my family are non-believers. They aren't "unreasonable," but yet they clearly dislike, that is, STRONGLY dislike my faith. I've been a Christian for a long time and have spent quite a bit of time around this side of my family.
I think a better approach to being witnesses is to be vulnerable about your faith. Let that person know that you love them as does Christ, but be very clear about where you stand.
Like I said, I'm not entirely sure if I read your post the way you meant it but this is my opinion anyway.
I agree with Joy on that last part on being hated by the world. Jesus Himself said he would "bring a sword", not peace and "turn a man against his father" and "a daughter against her mother" (Matt 10:34-38)
It would be nice if most people would treat Christians "decently" but the fact is that isn't the case, especially if you are one who is trying to proclaim the truth and live a godly life. Paul wrote, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12). Try being a Christian in a fundamentalist Islamic nation. You think they will treat Christians "decently"
True, sometimes you can be treated poorly because you are just simply acting like a jerk, hypocrite, etc. Christian or not. But sometimes you ARE treated poorly simply because of what you believe and live out your life according to your beliefs.
Joy, you misunderstood me. We are mostly in violent agreement. When I said that being a Christian is a logical extension of who I am, what I meant is that it is as much of my DNA as is breathing. I do kind of disagree that eventually being kind courteous and generous to people won't eventually win them over - but my family situation is different. Some of my inlaws, though, have no faith, and although I am not shy about mine, we have never had an issue where they have treated me more poorly because of it. I think my attitude, when confronted with someone who is angry about my faith is just to love them enough to make up the difference. The goal is not to be "more" hated by the world because of your beliefs - it's that you shouldn't be suprised and taken off gaurd by friction. So on the rare occasion that someone had outright treated me hatefully because I am a Christian, I simply tell them that I am sorry for any perceived wrong I may have done them, and that I still value and appreciate them. Then I try to serve them better, and prove their preconceptions about people of faith wrong - because I think that Jesus would still value them and serve them. I think we sometimes let our hurt feelings drive the boat - but I think when we're trying to live for God, we really don't have time for that. We can cry later, in a safe place, but in that moment we have to die to ourselves to better serve others.
The same week that the Boston bombing happened and all these other horrible things, a bus driver committed suicide. It was at a school that I volunteer at, and one of the girls I work with was really affected by it. I'd already had to call the police before because I'd received a suicide warning from this girl. We talked and prayed together about what had happened. It broke my heart. You can read more about that story on my blog ;daybreakwriter.weebly.com/.../will-god-let-me-forget-words-of-a-suffering-teen.html
I also studied at a Bible college for a year. I felt God asking me to go home to Quebec, and I got scared. Quebec is less than 0.05% evangelical. I knew that if I went home, I was going to be alone. I was so scared, but God was so good. He is always good. Bible school was so important in making me grow, but it had become my bubble, and I couldn't share my faith in a bubble. I pray that he will make me strong as I work here with girls like Kate and schools like mine, where students are desperate for hope, healing and love. God bless!
Why would a Christian want anything to do with a non-Christian if it was not a project to convert them? I cannot believe Christians and non-Christians can every be friends. If I find someone who is trying to be friends with me is a Christian I tell them to back off, stop talking to me and leave me alone. I've had WAY too many bad encounters with your kind to ever trust you again. Be Jesus to one another but I want your kind to leave me alone. I do not care to be ":witnessed" to or hear your "testimony". I've heard it all before, from a child to an adult. I have no wish to be a part of your life and I certainly do not want your kind to be a part of mine. Is that so difficult to understand?
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