One evening, while dining at a casual restaurant with my family (celebrating my wife’s birthday, as I recall), the guy seated at the table next to us leaned over and – excusing himself for breaking in – asked a question of our family. His introduction was simple, just asking whether our kids liked to be outdoors. Since he was friendly enough, we engaged in polite conversation, and found that he was a promoter of the hobby of geocaching. While he didn’t appear to make any money from this, he was responsible for stationing and maintaining a number of caches in the area, and his mission was to encourage families to get outside and adventure together. Since my wife and the kids had gone out and tried this a few times, we had some things to talk about.
Whether you prefer geocaching, Game of Thrones, or the Golden State Warriors, each of us typically has something that we’re passionate about. When we have the opportunity, we love to talk with others about it – sometimes because they share the same passion, and other times because we think that they should!
As I thought about this evening, it occurred to me: if this guy could be bold enough to talk about his passion, why couldn’t I strike up a conversation about Jesus Christ just as easily?
- Was it because I was too introverted? Probably not, since I’ve learned to engage in conversation on a variety of topics, through life experiences and as a requirement of my job.
- Was it because this topic was a more socially-acceptable topic than Jesus Christ? Maybe this is the case, but I have to imagine that “geocaching guy” ran into a reasonable number of other families in public who didn’t share his interest in “structured detective work”. A hobby like this isn’t as polarizing as matters of faith, but there are plenty of others who share their beliefs freely and unsolicited – ranging from mainstream philosophies, to off-the-wall ideas, to theories that are downright goofy.
- Was it because I wasn’t as passionate about sharing my purpose? This starts to hit closer to home. If I felt as strongly about Jesus as this guy did about geocaching, if I devoted my life to my Savior as much as this guy devoted his life to his mission, would I act differently? This man, who I hadn’t even met before, had decorated his car and printed up business cards to encourage others to participate in something that he had found. Other than praying before the meal, it’s difficult to know how anyone else in the restaurant would have seen anything different in my life as a Christian.
- Was it because my message wasn’t as valuable to others? While I have respect for “geocaching guy’s” goal of getting kids outside and exploring the world around them (instead of staying inside and playing video games), I would politely suggest that knowing Jesus is even more important. With the knowledge of a cure for separation from God, and the path to a better life (even while we remain on earth), I cannot consider the message of Jesus as somehow less important than getting some fresh air.
If I were reading this, I’d probably try to defend my own behavior by thinking to myself that people who break into conversations at other tables at restaurants are rude, but the reality is that a friendly neighbor can sometimes make an evening better (rather than just awkward).
Regardless, Jesus was pretty clear on how we should feel about being associated with Him:
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:38 NASB
I’m not trying to pick on anyone by citing this verse, though. It can be a challenge to put our faith “out there”, especially in a culture that has the wrong perception of it, and sometimes ostracizes those who stand up for what they believe. I get it, but I can’t hide Jesus’ clear challenge to His followers.
Rather than looking back with regret, though, let’s find a good example. For those of us who haven’t mastered the skill of sharing the good news about Jesus with others, may we instead be like Paul, who wasn’t ashamed. He didn’t just force himself to share a message because he had to; instead, he understood the value and importance of what he had been entrusted with.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16 NASB
Given Paul’s clear understanding of what this message could mean to others, and the difference it could make, it was a natural outcome for him to share the good news. I suspect that, as we learn about, embrace, and internalize the message of Jesus, telling other people will become easier and easier.
So, if you’re compelled by God to share His message with patrons at the table next to you, go for it. Who knows – maybe you’ll find yourself sitting next to me that day.