“What hurdles seem the most consistent in keeping loved ones from coming to salvation?”
When I initially read this question, I was struck by all kinds of yucky guilt over my current reality.
That reality is…
I’m not meeting with self-proclaimed atheists in coffee shops. I’m not sitting with souls who are battling and wrestling with the theological points of salvation. I’m not rubbing shoulders with men and women who have hang-ups with the church and its imperfect followers. And I’m not engaging in back-and-forth biblical banter with friends and loved ones who have given me specific reasons for why they aren’t willing or ready to trust the Savior and embrace His free gift.
I’m just not, and I just don’t.
So… I don’t want to pretend I’m walking a road I’m not.
And though I’m tempted to beat myself up with the “you should have more lost people in your life” and “you need to do more evangelizing and less discipling,” I am going to resist that false guilt and embrace the reality that the people in my life are people who have already given their lives to Jesus and are fighting the day-in and day-out battles of following Jesus when it’s dark, hard, and ugly.
Now that doesn’t give me an “out,” or an excuse for why I shouldn’t be ready (at all times) to give a 1 Peter 3:15 explanation to all I meet and do relationship with. Not at all. The reality is, we should always be ready and eager (both in and out of seasons where these opportunities are more present and less present) to give a reason for our hope, an explanation for our peace, and an answer for our joy. We should!
But the reality is, I’m not there right now, so I have a hard time feigning the hurdles for why these souls are not ready to “close the deal” with Jesus.
So I’ve decided to take a different spin on this week’s post, and I’m going to share the hurdles I might have if I was seeking Jesus in 2017.
I’m going to share my own personal hang-ups with the church and its followers, acknowledging how we (as Christ followers) can be a hurdle for those who are contemplating a relationship with Jesus.
I can do that. I can write about that.
Because not only have I had experiences with those “stumbling blocks,” “hypocrites,” and busted and broken souls who share my pew and post on my news feed, but also because I have been
one two all three of the aforementioned souls.
1. We don’t always listen well.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, a psychologist, or a neurosurgeon to take a glance at the things we Christians post and rant about on social media. Shouting our opinions about kneeling, standing… the right, the left… police officers, riots… guns, statues… refugees, minorities… Hobby Lobby boycotts and the color of the Christmas Starbucks cup. Just to name a few. We shout on our walls, and we spout our theology, but I’m not sure we do a very good job of listening to one another.
We have our verses, and we parade our values, but I’m not sure we do a very good job of hearing the “other side” and contemplating the “differing opinion” (myself included.) We share our memes, post our rants, and explain why the other side is “morally inept, lost, and going to hell in a hand-basket,” but I’m not sure we listen well. I’m not suggesting that we change our opinions or alter our stances, but I am suggesting that maybe the watching world doesn’t want our Jesus because we won’t even listen. And if we can’t listen to “their side” and “their thoughts” about the current events of 2017, why in the world would they want to sit and listen to our Gospel?
2. We don’t always love well.
Following close on the heels of not listening well, we don’t love well. Often, our churches, our homes, and our circles are filled with people who look like us, talk like us, and do life like us. We struggle to engage and love others who have different skin, different stories, and a different set of ideas. We struggle with the “screwed up” and the broken (myself included) and we struggle to love those who are battling addictions and questioning their identities; and we do a really poor job of loving those who don’t share our theology, our ideology, and our phraseology. We stay within our comfort zones, our safe zones, and in our wheel houses of “normal” and “right.” And guess what? The outside world sees this; they feel this. If these people can’t love people who aren’t them (even some of their “own”), how would I ever “fit” and why would I ever “follow?”
3. We don’t always sit well.
We don’t sit well with “hard.” We are tempted to adopt the whole approach of “take two verses and call me in the morning.” We offer platitudes, trite sayings, and tell people to “pray more,” “believe more,” and “trust more.” We aren’t quick to jump in the thicket of “hard” with those who are hurting – extending our arms, our hearts, and offering a theology of suffering that extends beyond the temporary and earthly. We don’t know what to say or how to fix it, so we don’t like to sit and be with things and people who don’t seem easily fixable. We don’t sit well with the hard; we don’t wrestle authentically with the hard (myself included), and we don’t often know how to do it with others.
Sexual addictions, death, divorce, celibate homosexuals, abuse, singles… I don’t believe we take the time to sit well, mourning with those who mourn and hurting with those who hurt. We like quick fixes, black and white lines, and boxes that require little mess and much ease. And if the watching world is watching how we handle our suffering (in such shallow and simple ways at times), what would make them interested in the hope we say we have?
4. We don’t always share and proclaim well.
Again, #4 follows right on the heels of #3. Not only do we not sit well with our hard and others’ hard, but we don’t do a very good job of being vulnerable about our brokenness. We struggle to feign together-ness (me too!), perfection, and 24/7 godliness. We don’t air our dirty laundry, and we certainly don’t embrace our dirty laundry. We don’t share deeply; we don’t share honestly; and we don’t always do a very stand-up job of living out the grace-filled message we say we’ve accepted. If we can’t share, why would they want to share?
And in a similar vein, we don’t proclaim well. We don’t proclaim the good news–openly sharing how the Gospel has personally changed our lives from the inside-out (Does that hearken back to the point that maybe we’re too afraid to share just how needy and messed up we are?). We share the Romans Road, encourage Believer’s Baptism, and fanatically promote Church Membership, but are we sharing about how Jesus has made and continues to make a tangible and lasting difference in our lives? Are we showing the difference He’s made, displaying the fruit He’s grown? I believe we often proclaim a life-changing message from a rather removed place (myself included), and we forget and/or neglect to remember that people don’t want to follow something or someone that isn’t life-changing and deal-breaking.
Again, I can’t speak from personal quotes spoken from souls who are wrestling with the decision to believe, but I can speak and share from my own place of observation.. .a place from the inside-out.
And as I’ve written this post and reflected upon my own words and my own observations (though not necessarily true of every Jesus follower), I have felt re-dedicated and re-committed to living a life, though imperfect as it may be, that listens, loves, sits, shares, and proclaims well.
So that anyone and everyone who is looking and hearing might think and say, “I want to follow Who she follows.”