“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV)
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1Peter 3:15 NIV)
We live in a world where religion is increasingly side lined from public life. Even in places where there is no active persecution against Christians, socially imposed silence on religious matters has meant that the benefits of trusting in God may not be openly discussed. In the absence of such discourse, public opinion on religion is being shaped by violent religious extremists. So Muslim extremists and Hindu extremists are all in the news, and pseudo Christian cults abound, but where is the real Christian voice?
Let us look at the social diktats and accusations aimed to silence Christians in the public sphere:
“Religion is strictly a private matter.”
“You have no right to share your beliefs with others.”
“It is embarrassing to discuss God.”
“Religious people are bigoted, homophobic, etc.”
“Religion causes wars.”
“Religion produces social injustice, and so on”.
My aim in this post is not to rebut such statements (I hope to do it another time), but to focus on the Christian emphasis on sharing our faith.
When we observe the way people of other religions worship, we find that the Christian manner of corporate prayer and fellowship is unique. The Hindu may spend a few minutes in silent prayer before a temple idol, and the Muslim rise and kneel on his prayer mat. Even in a mosque gathering, the individual Muslim worshipper is focussed on his own prayers in a solitary manner – with little interaction with fellow believers.
In contrast, Paul describes the Christian pattern of worship, where
“each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” 1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV.
The emphasis is on togetherness, sharing and mutual edification. So family prayers, Sunday worship and even children’s meetings are essential aspects of Christian life. We are instructed not to give up the habit of meeting with one another, because we all need to receive from one another.
The Dead Sea receives water from the River Jordan, but its waters never flow outward into streams and rivulets. Its waters are bitter, toxic to fish and marine life. Christian life is to be shared, and if we do not share, we grow bitter or wilt away and faint. As we give of our limited spiritual resources to strengthen others in their faith, we become channels of God’s overflowing grace. He will keep pouring more of His Spirit into us, and enable us to feel refreshed and energetic in our souls.
Living things grow and multiply.
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5 NLT
Equally we have the duty of witnessing to the work of Christ on the cross with those outside our faith. This is not easy to do, for many reasons. You might be called all sorts of names – fanatical, brainwashed, eccentric – and find yourself unpopular within many circles. Christians have lost their jobs for sharing their faith, offering to pray for the sick or refusing to compromise with the world.
Many countries have laws prohibiting conversion, and proselytisation may be a criminal offence. Even in our time, simply believing in Jesus could actually result in death in some places. The recent takeover of parts of Syria and Iraq by ISIS has highlighted the cost that many pay to be called by the name of Christ. When we hear of their sacrifices, how can we who live in relatively peaceful circumstances remain silent about our faith?
In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we should never be ashamed of the gospel. We are called to be witnesses within our spheres of influence. And we ought to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16 NLT). We must tell others about our faith and what what Christ has done for us, with our words and through our lives, with gentleness and respect, in season and out of season, so that souls may be saved.
“Father, we are so grateful to be Yours. You have chosen us and called us to be a blessing. Help us witness to the truth of the gospel with those outside, that they may also come to the knowledge of Christ. Please grant us the grace to serve our brothers and sisters by pouring out into their lives what You have poured into ours. In Jesus’ name.”