Popular comic, Jim Gaffigan, suggests that if you ever want to make people feel awkward at a dinner party, start talking about Jesus. To be honest, I can’t say that I disagree with that statement. And yet, I also know what it is like to feel compelled to talk about Jesus regardless of the context.
In our day, at least in North America, Christians are often made to feel like they are doing something highly inappropriate when they bring up the subject of God in public conversation. We’re sometimes excused of being “pushy” or “arrogant” for bringing the subject up and for suggesting that the God we worship should be worshipped by everyone. I’m not telling you something you haven’t already observed when I say that our society actively discourages the promotion of one religious faith over another.
Why then, do Christians still insist on talking about the God of the Bible? If so unpopular, why do some Christians feel nonetheless compelled to talk about Jesus?
I certainly can’t speak for every Christian. I imagine that the reasons for talking to others about God are varied. I also gather that the manner in which we talk about God to others also varies. I don’t doubt that Jesus is sometimes proclaimed through a tone that wreaks of arrogance and condescension. While I hope that never describes me, I concede that there have likely been times when I have shared the Good News of Christ in a less than ideal manner.
The most common reason, I suspect, for talking about Jesus comes from a genuine concern for other people. Those who have come to experience the profound joy and satisfaction that comes from a relationship with Jesus naturally want to share that experience with those they care about.
Would you be surprised to hear me say that the wellbeing of others is not the primary impetus for evangelism (sharing the Good News) that we find in the Bible?
I am grateful for the ministry of John Dickson, who rightly points to a different impetus for talking about God to others. One of the Scriptural examples that Dickson cites is Psalm 96, where we read: “Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, (and) His marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Ps. 96:2,3).
There’s the call to get the word out—to everyone and to every place. What’s the reason? The subsequent verse offers the answer: “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods” (Ps. 96:4).
Quite simply, our logic for mission is that God is great. God is so glorious, so wise, so holy, so powerful, so loving, so abounding in mercy, that God’s people cannot remain silent.
John Dickson shares a story about Joe Louis, the world famous boxer, that comes from the early 1930s. At a time when Joe Louis wasn’t yet a recognizable face, he was riding a bus through downtown Detroit. While on the bus a group of young men began to taunt and verbally abuse Joe Louis. The young men were trying to bait him into a physical confrontation, but Joe Louis just ignored them. The abuse soon escalated to a point where one of the young men struck Joe Louis. Even then, a restrained Joe Louis did not retaliate, but simply got off at the next stop.
Now put yourself on that bus, just a few seats away from Joe Louis. From the vantage point of knowing who Joe Louis is, how do you respond as this confrontation unfolds?
One response might be to stand up and shout, “You guys are crazy! This guy could really hurt you! For your own wellbeing, stop this nonsense immediately!”
While that response might make some sense, I want to propose that a better response would be stand up and declare to the young men that they should be showing utmost respect to the finest boxer in the world.
You see, these young men were in the presence of greatness, but they did not realize it.
I genuinely care about the wellbeing of others, but something more compelling motivates me to talk about Jesus—His greatness.
This is how many Christians view this world—and this is what compels me to talk to others about Jesus—we live every minute in the presence of God’s greatness, but not everyone realizes this. Until I’m convinced otherwise I will continue to seek to sensitively and sensibly talk about Jesus with others. Sorry Jim Gaffigan.
“The Logic Of Mission”, based on Isaiah 43:10-13, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on Sunday, July 31, 2011.