My wife and I were having dinner in a little English pub in the North Carolina mountains this past week and I could not help but overhear some of the conversations going on around us. The place was mainly frequented by other local business owners and had a nice homey atmosphere. I suppose this combination made them open up to each other more than usual for most pubs in America.
Their conversations were about everything from food to how bad business had been in that off season. It was entirely friendly and kind-spirited. In the process of hearing all this it struck me that if such a group of people did not know the Lord (I have no reason to think of them in either way; believer or nonbelieiver) it might be very difficult to convince them that they need Him.
It then struck me that this same “goodness” or “kindness” has become a common trait in the US and the West. All human virtues have been boiled down to how kind we are to one another. All ideas about sin, especially original sin, have been wiped away. These people were in fact kind, as so many are. That is a good thing in as far as it goes. How far does it go though?
From the Christian point of view it is not far. We value human kindness and goodness because they are a part of living a Christ-like life. Not because they are the Christ-like life. Christ encouraged his disciples to be kind and loving toward one another. But there is no record of him encouraging this at the expense of His Truth.
I think that this self-serving goodness in America has become a great obstacle to spreading the Gospel. It seems that God wants people to be willing to be saved. He desires us to realize our sinfulness and separation from Him and want to return. He does not force us, for then it is no longer love. But how do we convince people of a truth when we cannot agree on the problem. I believe that in their hearts people still have that nagging feeling that they are incomplete, as we are without God. But I wonder just how much they listen to that beckoning now.
Here, I realized is the core of the difficulty in witnessing. So many humans today simply do not regard sin as real. They cannot see themselves as sinners or this world as fallen. They may recognize that they personally have problems, or that the world is far from being ideal. They do not see this as interconnected with a Supreme Creator whose Will we have disobeyed. They may even say they believe in God. This is usually at best, a shadowy belief. A belief which may entail a kindly old man who likes kindly people and takes no further interest. He may bless them but he probably does not curse them. That is the rather naive view that most people have.
I feel that we Christians must take a new examination of the ways in which we witness, and our own example. By our ways I mean that we must realize that not all people are the same. God places us among people of different views and backgrounds. We must be prepared to use that which He has given us in ways to witness to those who do not have our shared experiences. In short we must be better communicators. By our example I mean more than anything our demeanor. Not all Christians are bubbling over with cheer. Not all can or probably even should be. We are not all alike. Yet we must take care to show something which we all have. That is the Joy of Christ. If we have accepted Him as our Saviour, then within us should be a growing Joy of what He has done for us and how it has changed our hearts and minds. I do not know that I possess the words to describe the Joy of which I speak. The readers will know.
In this manner, communication and demeanor, we may open up more doors to Christ than by the standard lines so beloved to us. Our language, even our terminology may need some tweaking to make people understand better. That is a topic for another essay. Until then, God Bless.