Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Faith Ever Be A Private Matter?

I have this thought that is forming and as I write I am looking for clarity. I have always held on to the belief of what Jesus stated that we should not throw "pearls" to the "swines" because they will only trample on them. Unless you know the value of pearls you will not appreciate them. Unless a person recognizes the authority of God's Word it is useless quoting it to them. In fact, it is a complete waste of time to have any kind of debate with a person who sees no value in the Word of God because it is on this great pearl that we stand. It is only those who are convicted by the Spirit who are able to hear the Word and be changed by it.

On the other hand, I feel sick to my stomach when I hear people say that their faith is a private matter, that they keep in to themselves. If it was real faith that person would know it cannot be kept to ourselves. Jesus Christ is such good news that we can't keep it bottled up, that is, unless we are selfish about it. We may be tempted to keep it private when we think we can keep all the blessings to ourselves, but it doesn't work that way. We may decide to keep it private because we are not too sure about it and don't want to be judged by others for it. That's really bad because Jesus told us that if we are ashamed of him he will be ashamed of us, and that won't work out good for us. Another reason to keep it quiet is because we are simply disobedient.

Aside from the fact that we feel compelled by Jesus' love to tell others about him, there is also the matter of obedience. We don't get to keep it to ourselves because Jesus told us to go and make disciples. He also told us that we have freely received so we now need to freely give. The world needs to know about Jesus and that world includes our neighbours, our co-workers, the school crossing guard, our class mates, our children, grandchildren and everyone else in our portion of the world. However, some people are afraid of conflict. They are afraid that something like what happened to John the Baptist would happen to us:

He ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. (Matthew 14:9-11)

Don't laugh. As a kid I thought something like this would happen to me if I talked about Jesus to my friends. Of course the two cannot be compared. John was a prophet who denounced the actions of a puppet king who cared more about his personal pleasures than he cared about anything else. This king knew what he was doing was wrong and John constantly warned him for the sake of his eternity and because of the bad example he was setting for the people. Some people are called to this but most of us are called simply to tell the world about Jesus, not to stand in condemnation of it. To speak out for Jesus does not mean spewing hatred at a people who do not know any better.

I would say most people keep their faith private because they do not want conflict in their lives but that is because they fail to understand that we are not to debate or argue people into the Kingdom. Sharing our faith means letting people know about Jesus' love and how he can change their lives. We answer their questions if they have any, but if they want to argue and debate it is best if we move on. Allow them to see it in our actions instead. This takes us back to the pearls that Jesus was talking about. The Word is filled with divine wisdom and incredible spiritual insight. These are the pearls we have been given and which we cherish. We use them to encourage one another, to go deep with Jesus and to correct those who have wondered off but yet still see the value of them. However, if people refuse to see their value then there is no agreed upon common ground to begin a debate or an argument. They refuse to recognize the only ground on which we have to stand. Its like the old hymn states:

I want no other argument,
I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.

That is our story. It is our testimony. It is the start and finish to our faith. It is too wonderful not to share and it is too beautiful to be seen trampled upon. We must share it but we must also be prepared to switch from words to actions when it is refused. We cannot strong arm anyone into anything. However, we can live the example Jesus gave us and show his love by loving those who hate him and us. It is our responsibility to tell about Jesus and the Spirit's responsibility to convict. It is the Father who draws men, women and children to the Son and it is the Son who reveals the Father to them. We have a big part to play in this because we are the story tellers. We tell the story but we are not responsible for how it is received. Sometimes, most times, that story must be told in actions because the words are rejected. However, if we keep it a private matter, how will the dying ever be saved? How will the lost ever be found? How will the darkness ever receive the light?

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