Thursday, July 1, 2010

Uncomfortable Neighbors, Uncomfortable You

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion." p. 71

For me, this is most definitely a source of weakness. I've gotten better about it over the years, but I still have a lot of work to do. The other day, I shared with you my experience of walking the inner streets of Portland and talking to people in the neighborhood. The purpose of the walk was to become acquainted with that area. I knew the chances were good that we'd eventually strike up a conversation about Jesus... the guy leading our little walk uses this as an ice breaker when he meets someone new: "So, let me ask you a question. What do you think happens to you when you die?" I'm not kidding! He really says that to complete strangers! After a while, I actually didn't feel uncomfortable anymore. In fact, I was so comfortable talking about my faith, that I began initiating my own questions, sharing my own experiences. On my way home that evening, I started to wonder why it seemed to come so easily. There's no doubt that the Holy Spirit played a pretty big part in it, but there definitely was another contributing factor.

You see, the truth is, I might not ever see any of those individuals again. Of course, if I make walking the streets of inner city Portland a regular occurrence, then that could all change. But, as of now, I don't know how likely that's gonna be. However, the odds of me seeing my neighbor everyday...well, those are pretty good. Better than good. As for coworkers, I don't have any. But my husband does and, I dare say, he sometimes spends more time with them than he does me. Then there's the whole issue of family. As hard as I try, I can't escape them. (You think I'm kidding... but I'm not!) Family is like that erroneous sock in the dryer... no matter how many times you try to get rid of it, it ALWAYS comes back... like the sock, it could be the same family member or someone completely different, but no less annoying! Of course, you don't know if I'm talking about my family, or my husband's... and I'm comfortable enough sharing this perspective because, if by some extremely rare chance they're reading, each will assume it's the other! (It goes without saying that I love my family... but I would be lying if I said they didn't get on my nerves at times... and I'm sure the feeling is mutual!)

So when you throw in the element of acquaintanceship, if you will, it can be a game changer. So what if I talk about Jesus to some random guy on the street that I'll probably never see again. Who cares if he goes and tells all his friends and coworkers that I'm some wacko Jesus Freak. Why should that bother me? Well, what if that "random guy" becomes a coworker... and all the people he's calling you a wacko Jesus Freak to are your other coworkers? Then would you care? How about if it's your neighbor you offend with all your "religion talk" and he goes and tells all the other neighbors that you're some "holy roller"... does that bother you? I dare say it does? It would even bother me... and I usually don't give two rips about whether I offend someone or not.

For me, it really comes down to the issue of approaching the subject. When I went out into the streets of Portland, it was for the sole purpose of talking about Jesus, praying for people in need, a city in need. I'm ashamed to say that I don't take that same approach with my friends and family, with my neighbors. They know I go to church. They know I'm really involved with church. But, they don't know how I feel about Jesus. We've never talked about what will happen after we leave this life. Maybe it's just as simple as asking a "philosophical" question, that allows us to start a dialog with those whom we spend so much of our time here on Earth. Maybe it's all that's needed to spend eternity with them as well.

It's time for a little practice. Think about the people in your life that you spend the most time with, that you care about the most... that you've NEVER talked about your faith with. In the next few days, ask them the following question: Do you ever think about what happens to us when we die? BUT... before you ask them, spend some time in prayer. Ask God for direction and wisdom. For some of us, it may be a short conversation. But, for others it could be an incredible opportunity to share your faith. I truly believe that God will prompt you. When His Spirit leads, let's try to follow.

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