Charlotte’s Web is a cute story and all, but when a spider drops from a web near me, my first thought is not to make friends with it. Instinct takes over. The same instinct that makes mouse spotters leap atop chairs and squeal for someone else, anyone else, to “Get it!”
It doesn’t matter how many times my husband points out our exponential size difference and that the creature is surely more terrified of me than I am of it. Self preservation has nothing to do with reason, especially when it involves rouge bugs and rodents. We may laugh after the threat is vanquished, but our fear is very real in the heat of the confrontation.
That’s how I am with people sometimes. Judging them by what I think I know, perceiving threat where there may be none. Weathered faces, dirty clothes, hands extended to passersby … people wear poverty differently. They must be crazy. They just want to buy drugs or a bottle. Why is he talking to himself?
With the help of fear I’ve sidestepped more than a few needy individuals, hoping someone else, anyone else, would deal with them. Perhaps even share Jesus with them. But not me.
Oh, the impoverished aren’t alone as targets of my spiritual snubbing. That well-dressed woman sitting alone, crying on a park bench. She doesn’t want me comforting her. I'm a stranger. The folks in my writers group who spend days debating about the sexual orientation of a fictional character. Who cares. I don’t read those books. The woman in my Bible Study who thinks you lose your salvation every time you sin. Holy Spirit, you sort that one out.
I have plenty of excuses to avoid evangelism. Like Moses, I feel challenged in speech. I’m not one of those outgoing people who find it easy to engage strangers (or even acquaintances) in conversation. Especially spiritual conversation. Seems so private and, like facing off with a spider (did I mention it was really big!), it can be scary.
The Great Commission has been a tough assignment for someone like me. But then, I realized God made me the way I am, and He knows my social challenges. Perhaps we can get a bit creative.
In 1989, I rode the bus to a movie theater to check out the latest Indiana Jones flick, the one where our hero sought and tracked the holy grail. Throughout the film, I thought about the cup of Christ, imagining all manner of majesty. Bejeweled, stunning, a goblet befitting God. Yet, in the movie, when Indiana had to choose correctly or die, he reached between the ruby-encrusted chalices and extracted a small clay cup, dull and utterly unremarkable. This Hollywood fantasy, belched out from a (most likely) secular imagination, reached into my heart and squeezed. The humility of the cup matched the character of God in my mind, and I wept. No, I sobbed—in the theater, on the bus, all the way home. I sobbed so much that I thanked God I’d gone to the show alone.
But there it was. Evangelism done creatively. It spoke to me of the essence of God. Amistad did it too, some years later, in a scene where an illiterate African slave deciphered the Gospel message by just viewing the pictures in a Bible. His interpretation of “the man of light” was spot on. Riveting, powerful stuff (which sparked more weeping)!
Wikopedia defines evangelism as the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus to non-Christians. Who says we need to use words? I’ve felt the Gospel go forth in music, in dance performances, in nature, and in literature. Love is prevalent in so many unexpected places. That’s where God waits with His message of hope.
Despite my social shortcomings, I’ve squelched fear to share truth with youth (one-on-one and to large groups), my mailman, family, friends, and an occasional street person. But I’ve also done it as a clown, with puppets, in skits, online, through short stories, and in pictures on my sketch pad. God is creative, so it makes sense to spread His Word the same way, creatively.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’ll be dining with Charlotte or Fival Mousekowitz anytime soon. Where they’re concerned, you can still find me on top of my chair.
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