But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.(1Peter 3:14-16)
How do I share Jesus in a secularized society? At this point in history America is a post-Christian nation. While there are certain legacy morality and ethical after-effects, we have seen a fundamental shift. Some would even say that Christianity is viewed with hostility by secular America (though in general I don’t believe it has gone that far). Christianity enjoyed favored status in America for many years. Our laws reflect the privilege given to the church. But our nation has become secularized and pluralistic. No longer does Christianity represent the dominant culture of America.
Sadly, the church did not offer a distinct alternative to the world in America. On the contrary, it got in bed with Western culture. It is hard to separate the democratic republic America from the American church. Both embrace the same consumerism. The church no longer stands in contrast to society, but has became complicit. The cynicism of our next generation is understandable.
We live in times that mirror Rome in many ways. All roads that propose to lead to God are acceptable (except, increasingly, Christianity, which makes exclusive claims). So what do we do? How do we find a voice in these days? For one, it is imperative that the people of Jesus engender trust in the communities in which we live and work. That should not even have to be said – the very mark of the life of Jesus compels us as such. But we are human and broken and our brokenness shows itself to the world around us when we fail to be the people of Jesus. We still have to learn what it means to be shining lights in this culture. We have to walk in the selfless love that Jesus said would pour out of His Spirit-led people.
Our lives should look different. Something radical has taken place. God says of us that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Rom 8:37). He calls us ambassadors of reconciliation (2Cor 5:18ff). Paul tells us, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20).” The power of the Holy Spirit in me is supposed to be evidenced by the change in me. I have a compelling testimony of what Jesus has done in my life. As the Apostle Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).” We live with contentment in all of our circumstances, even the difficult ones, because “the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4).” So when we encounter the world, no matter where, we are compelled to share Jesus.
I recently read a post wherein the Christian leader advised caution when a Christian chaplain or pastor or trusted friend is given the honor of caring for someone of another faith tradition who is approaching death. He said we should be “very much on guard against manipulating conversations given that we have a captive audience.” The post encourages caregivers to be sensitive to the beliefs of the person approaching death. I agree. Showing respect and listening gives the caregiver credibility. The sensitive care and love shown to the dying patient opens doors of understanding.
That said, I am somewhat troubled by this notion of being “on guard” since this an end-of-life issue. As a person of conviction I do not regard sharing truth as a form of manipulation. In fact, the trusted place I hold gives me the freedom and responsibility to do so. I am certainly not going to hold back the essential truth while someone’s life is slipping away. I will show sensitivity, but there is urgency as well. This is how we give a thirsty soul a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus.
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
Loving people without an end game or an agenda builds trust. Being trusted gives me room to love in the name of Jesus and to share openly about the hope I have within. No, I am not ashamed of the Gospel.