When Love Unfolds, Christ Shows Up
I have often felt inadequate about sharing my faith.
At some periods in my life I felt unsure of what I believed. Or at least not sure enough to express it verbally–without feeling like I was stumbling around stepping on my shoelaces.
Always, I feared sharing my faith. I feared pushing people away. People who may be put off by my faith. People who may have been hurt by other Christ-followers who were brash. People who look at the long history of Christian and religious violence and wonder how we can possibly say that our theology is one of love and forgiveness and grace. People who have been marginalized by society.
Who can blame them? I feel equally put off by how we as humans and we as Christians, historically, have failed to love and have compassion for each other.
But, I find that I am both awed and put off by the bold: Those who openly and passionately share their faith. Those who are candid about the singularity of Christ with people they hardly know. I am awed by those who are comfortable being in that place and who are comfortable having those conversations. Because of the bold, certainly, some non-believers have come to know Christ. And so, I cannot say that bold is wrong.
But, honestly, I am equally, and almost always, put off by the bold. I feel the air thicken and I go into panic mode, looking for the closest exit.
If I, as a believer, feel that way, then I imagine how many non-believers feel. A lack of compassion, or respect, or just a tinge of discomfort.
So, perhaps I shouldn’t feel inadequate about sharing my faith. But, scripture–Christ–says that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Christ has] commanded [us].” Matthew 28:18-20
How do I–how do we as Christians–square the fear of being off-putting with the command to “make disciples of all nations”?
Over the years, and especially over the last 23 years of being married to a non-believer, I have come to this conclusion: Telling all about the singularity of Christ needs to be squared with Christ’s command to “love everyone.”
And so, for me, loving others, unconditionally, has to come first. That means listening. Listening to what others believe or fear or hope. It is about showing my humanity and reflecting my faith through my love and compassion towards the people who I am fortunate to meet.
For me, it is also about finding common ground and loving others for who they are, what they believe, and where they are. When I listen well and seek common ground, I affirm for me–and hopefully for them–that we are all very much alike.
For me, it is when I focus on the differences that things fall apart rather than unfold.
I like the unfolding. I learn so much by listening to the hearts of others and watching the unfolding of the human experience of love and compassion and acceptance. And, in that unfolding, Christ shows up.