Have you ever done something really strange? Of course you have. Or at least I hope you have. But I mean doing something really strange for YOU. Something you normally would never do, just to see what would happen. If not, I encourage you try it. For me,one of these occurrences happened when I was going to school at the University of Tennessee. On my way to class one day, just because I wanted to see what would happen, I smiled my entire way to class. Everywhere I walked, I simply smiled. I'm one of these people that just kind of walks around with his eyes to the sidewalk, and no joke, if I see someone I know, I will purposefully change my direction so I won't have to see them. And I don't just mean acquaintances or people I don't like. I mean even my best friends. It's not that I don't like people, its just that smalltalk makes me queasy. I digress.
So on this particular day I decided to smile. I would smile at people as they walked by, and not the fake, "We just met eyes," kind of smile but the ,"You won't believe what just happened to me," kind of smile. But even if there was no one there, I just smiled. You would not believe the effect it had on the myself and those around me. For me, it really brightened my day. It really, truly did. Everywhere I went, every class I took, I was actually happy to be in. But more strikingly, it had a profound effect on the other pedestrians around me. My happiness caused other people to smile. They had no idea why I was smiling, but they knew that something great must have happened to me for me to look as ridiculous as I did. So they smiled. They left their smile-hating cohorts to join to exclusive club of happy people. It was an eye-opening experiment.
I feel followers of Jesus could (and should) easily apply the lesson I learned from my little one day social experiment. Often times we treat our faith, our beliefs, our Christ, as a ball and chain that brings us down when we try to swim in the ocean of people of this earth. We cover it up like an embarrassing scar, something that is a part of us, but we don't want anyone else to see because it might bring up an uncomfortable conversation.
WAKE UP! My Jesus is nothing like this. We have been given the Answer, not of our own doing, that everyone on this earth is looking for. God has made obvious His existence. Romans 1:19 says,"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." No matter who they are, no matter what they do or do not believe, everyone is looking for the same thing: the Answer. Everyone wants the Answer, so why do we treat it like something we need to keep hidden? It's like being at a birthday party and having a huge cake, but never bringing it out of the kitchen because people probably won't want chocolate cake. Or maybe they don't like icing. Or maybe they want ice cream cake. Open your eyes! Most unbelievers are sitting there waiting to be served! Of course there will be some who don't want a piece, but that's not your problem, it's just more for everyone else!
Of course this is not a perfect analogy, but the idea is there. Salvation is a wonderful gift that we have been given and countless others are searching for. Yes, there are those who will not want to hear what you have to say, no matter what approach you take. However, there are those out there who are looking for true joy and the Answer to all the problems in the world, and we know that Answer to be Jesus Christ.
Don't treat Jesus like something to be hidden. People like to see other people smile. Let Jesus smile through you.
Every Thursday night I go to a Bible study with the guys from camp. Actually, it started out as a Bible study for guys from camp, but has morphed into something so much more. Now, only around half of us work at camp, some didn't grow up in the church and have very differing views on the Bible and Christianity. It is my favorite part of my job, and my favorite part of my week. We have been studying the life of Jesus, and as much as possible, simply reading the Gospel of Mark and trying to figure out what it is talking about without any help from outside sources and commentaries. I love it. Not to say that outside sources and commentaries shouldn't be used or are detrimental to study, but I just want Jesus to speak to me through his word and through my brothers in the Bible study.
One of my favorite parts about our group is that since we all come from very different backgrounds and beliefs, we are able to really challenge our deeply embedded thoughts of how Jesus is. The more I study his life, the more I realize his personality and essence are so entirely different than I grew up thinking he was. My other favorite thing about our study is that we are not afraid to ask the hard questions. If something comes up in the scriptures that we don't understand or doesn't sound right, we don't just all sit there saying, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good," while on the inside we are screaming, "THIS MAKES NO SENSE! WHY WOULD JESUS KILL A FIG TREE FOR NO APPARENT REASON?!?!" (Mark 11:12-25)
This is so refreshing, as a follower of Jesus. I feel that many times we are scared to ask the hard questions about the Bible. It's not that we're scared that someone is going to disprove the Bible, or at least I'm not. It's that we're scared that WE might disprove the Bible for ourselves. There are things in the Bible that make no sense. There, I said it. They just don't. There are questions that we have about the Bible that we kind of don't want answered, for fear of what it may do to the god that we have made God out to be. Many times, when one of these comes up, we make up an answer that seems like what the nature of God is like. We take the tough questions and give OUR answer as to how God feels about or would react to a certain situation.
I actually Google searched, "Asking the tough questions about Christianity," and found a website that has the answer to every one of these questions. As I scanned, one of the first ones I came across was "How can God be three persons?" and then next to it is a link that says ANSWER. I actually found this almost comical. This website is telling me that it has the answer to the mystery of the Trinity, something that Biblical scholars throughout the years have tried but unsuccessfully been able to explain.
The good news is, I have found the answer. In my infinite wisdom and Biblical scholarship I have discovered the answer to these tough questions of the Bible. The answer is this: I don't know. There are things about the Bible that I don't, and may never understand. As Donald Miller once wrote, “I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me.” There are things about God, about His personality, about His Love, about His actions, about his anger, about his essence, that I cannot understand. This is not to say that God cannot give me understanding, because John 16:13 says, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come." The key there is that the spirit will guide us to truth. We cannot guide ourselves through conjecture on how we think God should be. He must guide us to the truth when we study, and if He doesn't, we must come to terms with the fact that there are things we don't understand.
The fact that I don't understand everything is one of the greatest truths God has ever revealed to me. There are things I don't know how to explain. There are aspects of scripture that seem contrary to what I think God should be like. However, I know what God has done in my life, and the squalor that he pulled me out of, so how can I do anything but love and trust Him? Of course I would love for the Spirit to reveal everything to me. But what is it that saves me? Is it my knowledge and understanding of God, or is it my faith? It may be scary, but without proper knowledge and understanding, God requires an enormous amount of faith. John 14:6 says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Jesus is the truth, and "the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)