Living on the Front Lines, Part 4

Pastor King Duncan relates a silly and sort of scandalous incident with an early church father: “When the father of Origen, a third century theologian, was arrested for being a Christian, Origen, then only 17, was aflame with the desire to follow his Dad and share in glorious martyrdom.  His mother pleaded with him not to go, but the headstrong boy did not want to listen to reason.

“His quick-thinking mother did what she could.  She hid his clothes.  Though Origen stormed and protested, she wouldn’t reveal where they were hidden. He couldn’t leave the house, and so he was unable to volunteer for martyrdom.

“Isn’t it interesting?” Duncan continues. “Origen was brave enough to be martyred, but not brave enough to go outside naked. Stepping outside without clothing would have sped up his arrest and imprisonment, but it was a step he was unwilling to take.

going outside naked

“In a sense,” Pastor Duncan observes, “I suspect that talking with a friend about our faith is, for many of us, the equivalent of going outside naked. It makes us uncomfortable. We feel exposed. We declare that we will give our lives for Christ if he should ask it, but to risk a bit of embarrassment for him seems to be beyond our level of discipleship. How sad. The disciples were willing to forsake everything including the esteem of their friends.”

Jesus in our conversation

When was the last time we mentioned Jesus in a conversation? When was it? David Wilkinson relates that “[We] as Christians need to present Jesus.” Perhaps that seems obvious to us; perhaps we’ve forgotten it; perhaps we’ve even ignored that we need to present Jesus. However we may choose to look at it, the truth is that Christians need to present Jesus. It’s just part of who we are in relationship to God. Folks need to hear about Jesus, and because we live on the front lines of faith, they need to hear about Jesus from us. You know, truth is, we’re surrounded by a world which knows precious little about the gospel of Jesus. We Christians need to present Jesus to this world because we were given a promise. Do we remember what Peter said in Acts: “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord God calls to him” (Acts 2.39)? “The promise is for you.” That’s what Peter tells the folks of Jerusalem when he preaches his very first sermon.

sharing the promise

We, too, received and enjoy a promise of life in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We were taught to live, we were made part of a community, and we have been entrusted with the gospel. The simple responsibility is that we share the promise. That’s what living on the front lines of faith really is: sharing the promise of Jesus. For the goal of the relationship in faith-sharing is to share the love of Christ and faith in Christ with another person. We need to think about faith-sharing not as a one-time event, but as the building of a relationship into which we can speak the truth of Jesus Christ. Through our patience, faithfulness, and diligence that growing relationship will eventually bear fruit.

folks get to know Jesus person-to-person

Did you know that “More than seventy-five percent (75%) of people who become Christians do so because of the testimony, deeds, and encouragement of someone they trust” (H. Eddie Fox and George E. Morris, Faith Sharing, p. 90). If this is true, then person-to-person faith-sharing must receive our highest priority in serving and teaching. We must build relationships into which we can speak the gospel of Jesus. When asked why they accepted Christ as Savior and joined a church community, most folks respond by explaining that someone within their social network invited them and shared Christ with them. Somebody shared Jesus in a one-to-one relationship.

who in our circle needs Jesus?

Now, whether we think about it this way or not, research indicates that each one of us can probably identify six (6) to eight (8) folks who are unchurched. The folks in this “extended congregation” provide the most receptive group of people to the message of Jesus. Someone in our circle of friends may just need that good news we know in Jesus. We reach these folks by developing relationships based on mutual trust and respect. As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, “Living on the Front Lines, Part 3,” paying attention and communicating well provide the basis for stepping into and remaining in these relationships. Christ became vulnerable on our behalf, giving himself for us, and we should do it for others. That’s what he tells us in Luke, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36). If we are open to another person’s life, then we can be open to the movement of God in that life. If we are open to the movement of God, then we may see someone accept Jesus Christ.

expose someone to Jesus

Sure, personal investment is hard, but that is exactly what Jesus did for each one of us. If he is living in us by the Holy Spirit, he does not expect anything less from us. Sam Shoemaker observes that “Most people are brought to faith in Christ not by argument for it but by exposure to it.” We must show people what it means to know Christ, to love Christ as we invest in their lives. Expose somebody to Jesus today…you probably won’t have to get naked.Godspeed your journey as you take the fire with you.

A text for the table: Acts 17.19-34. 

Photo Credit: “Faith-friendship Conversations” and “Empty Handed.”

If you want to learn more about faith sharing, try H. Eddie Fox and George E. Morris, Faith Sharing.