“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1.
In the movie Casablanca, Rick shoots Major Strassor, a Nazi official. Instead of turning Rick in, Renault covers for him and tells his men to “round up the usual suspects” or in other words go find some criminals to blame it on.
There are those who believe that people don’t reject Christ, they reject the caricature of Jesus they created in their mind. The same can be said of Christians. There are a lot of caricatures of Christianity that have gained traction over the years in the media and culture. It has become trendy to round up the usual suspects: being holier than thou or self-righteous, arrogant, judgmental, bigoted or intolerant, the morality police, and yes, jerks.
So what do we do when the usual suspects are thrown in our face every time we mention God? Do we stop associating with people who have been friends and have had a positive influence on our lives because they think Christians are arrogant and intolerant. Do we hang with Christians only? The answer is no because when we get to Heaven, there won’t be any lost people. We will spend all of eternity with other Christians so why spend all of our time on earth with them? Our one and only opportunity to reach lost people and help them receive God’s gift of salvation is now, even if they perceive us as judgmental jerks.
The goal is to convince people that the myths, labels and perceptions, the usual suspects about Christianity and Christians are wrong. How is that done? First we need to pray. In our eagerness to be witnesses for Christ, we often rush ahead of God. We may see what looks to us like an open door to share the gospel, but if we jump in without devoting time to prayer, our efforts may be counterproductive. Only by seeking the Lord in prayer are we led through doors that God alone can open. The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about sharing his faith. He gave us this advice: “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.” (Colossians 4:2-3)
Second, we need to be observant. That means looking for opportunities to turn commonplace conversations into eternal exchanges. Sometimes we can become stuck in our routines, thinking that Sunday is the day we go and minister in a church building to those who are coming to church for the first time. But Christ’s call to love and reach others should extend to our entire week, integrating ministry and outreach into our daily lives beyond the church walls. While certainly we cannot stop for everyone, we can ensure that we live our lives in such a way that we are open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. We should always be open to the possibility that God may want us to talk with someone or meet a need. If we are looking, we will see opportunities.
Third, speak. God’s love is a gift to us; it’s in us, but we need to release it to others through words and actions. When we spend time in the presence of Jesus, his character will rub off on us. With his Holy Spirit working in us, we can impact others for eternity. Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Call or send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church this Easter. Inviting people to church can turn into a relational event and an opportunity to speak to them in more detail.
- Do you pray first for those you wish to share your faith with?
- How can we recognize opportunities that God is giving us to share our faith?
- Ask the Spirit to open our eyes and minds to barriers which prevent us from sharing our faith.