What are we ashamed of?
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4.2
In our Alpha Course last night we addressed the theme of sharing faith: Why and how should I tell others (about Jesus)? When one stops to think about it there are so many reasons that it would appear to be a "no-brainer": he is God, he died our death so we can live his life, he loves us, he forgives us, he offers hope, meaning, purpose. When one reads a great book, sees a fabulous view, enjoys a delicious meal, hears a catchy song, what is the first thing one does but tell others? Yet.... when it comes to faith in Jesus, most people's instinct is to curl up in fear and embarrassment. Why?
It probably has something to do with the baggage attached to religion in general, which is similar to politics in this regard. There is often a catch and there is often a mis-match between what is practiced and what is preached. Both of these objections could be raised against Christianity. Jesus is more honest and direct than we tend to be about the cost of following him. The rewards may be "out-of-this-world" but the cost is, well, everything we've got, down to our very lives. And, yes, the church is full of hypocrites - I should know because I am one!
When someone experiences a dramatic or sudden conversion, they can be so intoxicated with love for Jesus that they charge around trying to convert everybody else. This too is problematic. First of all it gives the rest of us Christians a bad name and, secondly, because it rarely works, it can eventually leave the young believer exhausted and disillusioned. So, does that mean we should adopt a "quietist" approach and keep our faith to ourselves? Sounds reasonable but the Bible won't let us off the hook that easily...
While the quotation above, from Paul's second letter to Timothy, might refer to preaching and discipline within the church, Peter's famous equivalent exhortation, "Always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within you" (1 Peter 3.15) undoubtedly refers to our communication beyond the church. Yet he adds "with gentleness and respect". Herein lies the answer to our dilemma. We have Good News to share - the best! - so good in fact that we must not waste it by presenting it clumsily. The Gospel of Jesus deserves our most careful handling, so that it may be recognised for what it is and not ignored or dismissed for what it is not.