Thursday, July 07, 2005

Looking For a Sign?

A man prayed the following prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is." One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this man sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before that could happen the big guy burst into tears , began to weep, and cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I'm a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won't somebody tell me how to be saved?" He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?”

Ba da boom. Okay, we can all chuckle at (I hope) and relate to (I’m sure) the knee-knocking demeanor of our Christian brother in this story. How often do we think to ourselves after a particular encounter, “Why didn’t I say something?”

Let me begin by noting that the very existence of such feelings is a good sign (relatively speaking). Think about it. If you have such a low consciousness of the missionary presence and purpose of Christ in your life that you sail through your days with no thought of witnessing to people about the the Good News, then you will never experience this kind of angst. And let me add that too many Christians avoid the angst by adopting just such a posture; they effectively shut off any evangelistic impulse the Spirit might arouse in them because they do not want to risk possible discomfort.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Why should there be discomfort? One reason may be that we are stuck on the idea of witnessing as “confrontation.” Certainly there is a confrontational element to the Good News. After all, responding to it involves repenting and changing directions. But one thing I have learned, though not always lived out, is that the confrontation of the gospel is not between me and the other person; it is between the gospel and the other person’s heart and mind. In other words, as a witness to the love of God and the presence of Christ in my life, I do not confront people. I come alongside them and put my arm around them and say, in effect, “Let me help you hear what God might be saying to you,” with the emphasis on “help” and “might.”

After all, are any of the following comments really confrontational or abrasive? “When I have faced things such as you are going through now, it has meant a great deal to me to have a relationship with God through Jesus. Is that something you have thought much about?” Or “Where do you see yourself spiritually at this time in your life?” Or “One of the anchors in my life has been my church (though they don’t let me bring coffee into worship anymore). Would you be interested in going with me sometime?”

Few of us will ever have an experience like our young friend on the bus. Being a witness to the love of Christ is most fruitfully lived out in the daily rhythms of our life with friends and neighbors and co-workers, not complete strangers. It is not a “fail or “succeed” endeavor but a natural expression of our faith and hope. So relax, take heart, and look for signs. They’re all around you.


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