Every day we are surrounded by discomfort. Every day we’re faced with the ways the world rejects the precepts of Yahweh and chooses to go down its own path. Every day we’re faced with the commission to make disciples within a world where barriers are already erected against people of faith. Some predispositions are fabricated and undeserved; others are absolutely understandable based on the historic content of a Christian faith that hasn’t always been Christ-like.
Regardless of the suppositions about Jesus-followers, our task is the same: to make disciples. Discipling means taking the first step, which is inviting people into a relationship with Jesus. But that takes preparation and intentionality on our part. While our lives should be a witness for Jesus, we can’t expect to skate by on fulfilling Jesus’ commission by hoping someone, someday, takes notice and comes to him because of that.
We have to act. And we need to act in a way that brings glory and honor to God.
Here are four encouragements to bear in mind as you reach
out into a chaotic world and invite people into relationship with Christ. Four
things that will help you be a better witness for Christ.
- Recognize you’re no better than the people you’re trying to reach. I think we all know this logically, but in practice it’s easy to slip into behaving more like the Pharisee than the tax collector in Jesus’s tale of Luke 18, patting ourselves on the backs for the misdeeds we don’t perform rather than repenting for the ones we’re guilty of.
Wallowing in self-degradation doesn’t do anyone any good—it certainly doesn’t help us be effective witnesses or active disciples of Jesus—but in dealing with anyone, it’s always important to keep a realistic perspective of ourselves. At no time in this current life will we be free from flaws ourselves, and in coming to Jesus we aren’t stripped of the temptation to sin or of our Old Man nature. That perfection comes later. For now, we are no better than anyone we seek to reach with the Good News of Jesus. It’s Jesus who is better, and we are in a unique place through the righteousness imparted by our union with him to show others that truth; that while we remain flawed, while we are still dust and ashes, Jesus is raising us up to be seated with him in glory. It’s not to us that we want to draw people, because within our flesh we have nothing great to offer.
Remember that you’re drawing people to Jesus, and always be honest with others and yourself that you shine not your own goodness, but the light of him.
- Practice the lost art of love in listening. Being heard is something too many people don’t get enough of. I remember the first time a new mentor I’d just met pressed through a flippant comment I made and asked, “Why do you say that?” Stunned, I hardly knew how to respond. I was used by that time to my brush-off remarks—often hiding a deeper well of feeling than I could openly express—being ignored. But this person tunneled deep, peeling back the layers, listening to every word I said and digging out not just parts of me I’d been afraid to face until then, but a sense of purpose I’d never felt before.
He taught me that day that there is love in listening without making it all about you. He never once “Mm-hmmed” while waiting for me to pause and take a breath so he could make his own point. When we listen without the need to either pontificate or defend, we open the door to honest, loving dialogue. We create a sense of safety through which real, deep self-awareness and healing come about. In our willingness to be silent, we can help create an environment of visceral quiet inside which people can hear the still, small voice of God.
Learn to listen in a way that’s about the other person, not about the point you want to make.
- Don’t conflate the magnitude of struggles you aren’t tempted by. A friend once asked me why many Christians condemn homosexuality so fiercely and publicly. Why that seems to be the hill we’re willing to die on, why it’s the boundary line we hold so firm even as others give way. She wondered why homosexuals are shunned but adulterers are forgiven—despite Levitical law demanding the same punishment for both.
After taking it to the Lord in prayer and pondering her question, the conclusion I came to is this: it’s a lot easier to shine a harsh spotlight on the temptations we don’t personally struggle with. The things that are a non-issue for us as individuals, we tend in our human nature to aggrandize, slipping all too effortlessly into the mindset of “Maybe I do this but at least I don’t do that.” And that’s an odious attitude to those who follow Jesus and those who don’t.
A person who struggles with sexual temptation is no less worthy of God’s redeeming love than one who deals with pride or covetousness or lying. Resist the temptation to shed harsher light on the things you aren’t specifically tempted with. Remember that all temptations, all sin, all shortcomings are covered under the blood of Christ’s sacrifice and subject to the redemptive power of his healing love.
It’s not our job to judge one sin as worse than another. It’s our job to bring Jesus’s light and love to all.
- Lead with love. Remember the saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”? Knowledge is a blessing and a curse, because it’s really easy to lead with what you know will stitch up someone’s wounds before you ever have to get close enough for them to bleed on you. Yet we live in a time where the first step to healing for many is not a chapter-and-verse recitation, but a shoulder to cry on.
A friend told me once that “People change when they’re uncomfortable.” I’ve heard others use this as sort of a witnessing method; they’ll use Scripture references about topics to make people uncomfortable in hopes they’ll change. Yet in my own experience, the discomfort that invokes change is not the kind that comes from feeling like someone’s holding a knife to my neck. It’s the gentle, insistent, evocative pressure of Christ’s love, the kindness of God that brings about lasting change. (Rom. 2:4)
If we try to make people uncomfortable by telling them they’re going to hell, they may change, but it’s likely to be a tiring, taxing, maybe even impermanent one. On the other hand, introducing people to the love of God opens the door for Him to work the soil of their hearts for an enduring, deep, personal change.
Our job is to lead with that love.
Before you talk to a woman about her choice to terminate her pregnancy, sit with her and get to know the why. Before you lob verses about modesty and promiscuity at a person dressed a certain way, learn about the heart beneath the clothes and what the personal payoff is in what the surface portrays. Before you tell someone about what God wants from them, listen to their story. Take time to see the person, not just the conduct, not just the sin. Remember that once upon a time, someone had to see beneath our inherent flaws, our walls and barriers, our pasts. Whether Jesus cracked through it himself or someone did it in his name, it started with us.
You were worth getting to know, your heart worth pursuing. And so is theirs.
Conclusion: We will never be perfect in our witness for Christ. We will stumble, we may stammer, we will definitely say the wrong thing from time to time. But with ears open to listen, a heart open to love, feet grounded in the truth of who and what we are and a clear understanding of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go, we are in a good position to invite others into the journey with us.
And we are certainly better equipped to help them see Jesus as we go along the Road to Emmaus together, the Redeemer walking beside us both to open the eyes of saved and unsaved alike to the truth of his wondrous love.