The typical daily greeting often leaves me in an existential dilemma.
“Hey, how are you?”
I know I’m supposed to say, “fine-how-are-you.” (Like it’s all one word) But, I struggle. I might say, “Awesome. WAY better than you.” I have a bit of a mean streak in me – a dark sar-chasm that tempts me to be a jerk. Sometimes I’m tempted to reply with a mundane litany of details. You know – start with how I slept the night before, talk about how busy I am, how my feet ache, how I have a little something in my eye, how my shirt doesn’t fit quite right, my toenails need to be trimmed, I feel like I’m coming down with something, and I think I might have to use the toilet in a few minutes – How are you? In other words, I am tempted to really answer their question. But I don’t. I don’t share those kind of details unless someone is actually asking – and they hardly ever are.
You may not struggle with this at all. It’s part of our culture. But, because of this, I think we are all pretty used to not really answering the questions that people ask us.
The Social Contract
It’s the social contract. It’s the deal that we all agreed to. The one that says we will not bore each other with medical details, brag about our children, argue about politics, go on and on about our favorite subjects or say disgusting things at lunch or dinner. Most of us honor the contract, and try to avoid people that don’t – or at least look for the nearest exit once they start talking.
But, there is one subject that can make any awkward conversation even more awkward. Next time someone is boring you to the brink of pain – breaking the social contract, try this – ask if you can tell them about Jesus. That should send them running. Jim Gaffigan says even the Pope tries to get out of a conversation when people start talking about Jesus. “Easy, freak – I keep work at work!”
It’s true. No one wants anyone to walk up to them and start talking about religion.
Unless they ask.
1 Peter 3:15
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
Serious As Hell
Anyone who is not in Christ will be lost. They will die in their sins and if they are not covered by the work That Jesus did on the cross – if they are outside of Christ, then they have no hope. But, no one wants to hear that! No one is eager to hear the bad news. And it is not our job to tell them the bad news. It is our job to tell them the good news – the Gospel.
Imagine that a woman is late for work. She gets into her car and it doesn’t start. She opens the hood and starts pulling wires, taking things apart and pouring gasoline onto the motor. Go ahead – imagine it, it’s kinda fun. We want to run up to her and stop her, asking her what on earth she thinks she is accomplishing. Imagine that her answer is, “Well, the car wouldn’t start – I had to do something! I’m late for work.” *
“Always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”
Imagine that a man is sitting at a burger joint happily eating a double bacon cheeseburger. Then imagine that a vegetarian-health-food nut walks up to him and tells him that he is going to die if he continues to eat this way. Will he listen? Or will it just ruin his lunch? But, imagine that the same man is trying to lose some weight because of health problems so he’s talking to a personal trainer or his doctor. Now he can hear it. Now he is very interested – now he’s asking.
“Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks…”
I think this is the key. Wait for them to ask.
Wait for it
Live a life that begs the question. Live as if Christ is the Lord of your life. Work hard at your job. Don’t complain about your work or your pay or your co-workers. Clean up after yourself, and clean up after other people. Take the really crappy jobs that no one else wants to do, then do the best you possibly can. Work hard at living the kind of life that Jesus taught us to live. Love people instead of using people. Help people instead of seeing them (and their ideas) as a threat. Live a life that shows you have hope in something beyond the here and now. Live your life as spiritual act of worship before Christ the Lord.
And then listen.
Listen to people’s concerns, their fears, their doubts, their dreams. When the time is right, and if they ask you a question – Then be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you.
But, even once they ask, you have to be very careful.
“But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”
It’s still not time to break the social contract. We are not to be so eager to throw Jesus at them like a life saver – that as soon as they say something like,”Why are you so calm about all this?” We pounce on them saying that, “they are going to Hell and need to be baptized for the remission of their sins!” Instead, we need to be gentle and respectful.
The friendships and relationships that we build in this life have to be real. We’re not supposed to fake friendships with people just so that we can tell them about Jesus. Yech! We are not selling fake-plastic-Jesus-answers door to door like aluminum siding. We’re bringing the real truth and love of Jesus Christ to hurting people – The Gospel. We’re sharing the hope that we have in our God with the people that God has put in our lives.
Some people do have the spiritual gift and calling to be an evangelist – Someone who makes cold call sales for Jesus. Maybe you have that gift and calling, and if you do – then get to it. I ain’t stoppin’ you.
But, for the rest of us – Let’s live our lives in such a way that people will be moved to ask. Live a life that begs the question.
* Props to Pastor Douglas Wilson for this analogy.
– Tell me about a time when someone asked a question that led to a faith conversation.