Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I did read a good post today referencing the Lady Gaga stunt at the Episcopal Church Foundation's Vital Practices blog (see it here), about how few of us have a problem talking about all sorts of things with our colleagues and friends except when it comes to church and faith. Many Christians seem to have difficulty figuring out how to weave their faith lives into their everyday conversations. And so we talk about just about everything else except for God, Jesus, faith, salvation.
Similarly, I remember the New Testament scholar Bart Erhman opening one of his Great Courses videos on the New Testament this way: He asked his students (he teaches at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) if they believe that the Bible is in some way the Word of God. Lots of people raise their hands. Then he asks if they have actually read the Bible. Few people raise their hands. Then he asks if they have read The DaVinci Code. Nearly all the students raise their hands. He says, what is up with this? You believe the Bible is the Word of God but you spent your time reading The Word of Dan Brown instead?
Well, you know, faith is private, we feel. And mysterious, maybe too difficult to understand and absolutely too difficult to explain. And, you know, what if people think we are weird, that we are just like those crazy TV Christians (or something)? Or if they ask things we can't answer? So let's just keep it private.
And in fact, we keep it so private that we are unable to bring ourselves to do the work Jesus commissioned us to do - to go and make disciples of all people, to spread the Gospel, the Good News, that God loves us and wants us to be reconciled to God and to each other. That Jesus came to show us what God is like, to open up a new pathway to God for people who were and are groaning under the weight of the brokenness that permeates human existence.
The rest of the world is not going to know that Christians are not all crazy TV people but perfectly normal, nice, good people (like you) if you don't let people know that you are a Christian. The rest of the world is not going to know that Christian behavior includes being responsible about the environment, equality, human rights, inclusion, loving neighbor through social justice and not "loving person hating sin" kinds of stuff if you don't show the world what Christians like you really believe and do. That's what evangelism is.
Jesus said for us to bear fruit. Figuring out how to be a public Christian is figuring out how your faith is not something external that you put on just on Sundays but is an integral part of who you are and how you live your life (that's part of what bearing fruit is). One does not have to bore and/or irritate one's friends and neighbors and colleagues and family members with constant references to Jesus all day to do this. One can be open about what motivates, inspires, frees, informs; one can invite dialogue without needing to know all the answers (it isn't dialogue if one side knows all the answers anyway); one can express one's faith through both words and deeds without needing to put on an Awards Show Extravaganza.