Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As a reluctant witness, establishing the right priorities.

My thoughts this week deal with establishing the right priorities. With our minds, spirit and energy being pulled in a thousand different directions it is extremely hard to keep it all-straight. To follow the Lord with so many demands being placed on our lives is kind of hard. Kind of hard? No, it is really hard. Life challenging hard. Sweat producing hard. But, hey, Jesus never asked us to do the easy stuff.

One of the priorities that is kind of expected in a Christian’s life is the willingness to bear witness to the one who changed our lives. Should we always be ready to share the Good News that is in us? But in truth, we are really a reluctant witness to that reality… reluctant because we are not really sure how to do it, what words to use, how to approach others, etc. We all have spiritual scares because of being backed into a corner with an over zealous Christian. Most of us have experienced the pamphlet pushers… the in your face, “going to hell” proclaimers. As one friend shared with one of those “in your face… if-you-died-tonight-you-would-be-going-straight-to-hell” proclaimers, “If heaven is filled with people like you I would much rather spend eternity in hell!”  My friend did share with me the “proclaimers” response other than it did take his breath away and left him standing there with nothing more to say.

Establish Priorities is a challenge, establishing the RIGHT priorities are even more so. During my search for stories/illustrations to help us in our journey down this path I ran across this one by Rodney Buchanan.

I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.” 

Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.” 

Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning (Luke 6:17-31) was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.

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