So, when a follower of Jesus tries to tell others about the life change that they have experienced, and the amazing things that they have found to be true, why aren’t their words always met with excitement?
It may be that those we talk with have been burned. There are many who watched someone who claimed to be a Christian but didn’t live like Jesus Christ. Yes, I understand that no Christian – even the most ardent follower of Jesus – is perfect, but there are others who carry the name of Christ in name only (see Matthew 7:21). A statement of faith from a trusted person in the latter category (when contradicted by their actions) drives a wedge between the message of Jesus Christ and an observer’s point of view.
It might be that we’re using terms that don’t mean the same thing to others. We use words like “faith” and “belief”. To a Christian, this should mean evidence-based faith and a belief in Someone who has proven Himself righteous and reliable to us (not just in our lifetime, but throughout history). But, the word “faith” by itself has come to mean something much more like an opinion: “blind faith”, as it were. Absent context or experience, the actual word sounds like something intangible: a “truth” (another term that has been watered down, and no longer necessarily means “facts”) that can comfortably vary from person to person.
And, sometimes there is just an intentional resistance to a message that might require change. By choice, some have decided to ignore, fight, or deflect any truth that conflicts with their own preferences. I don’t find the Bible suggesting that these people are unintelligent or not able to comprehend the truth; instead, it seems to be a willful choice to not listen (a choice with consequences).
Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.
Ephesians 4:18 NLT
Instead, though, what is the reality that we have lived through? What circumstances can we point to that are explainable only by the existence of a God who transcends our corporeal existence? What have we experienced – in our hearts, minds, and souls – that is just as tangible as the chair we sit upon, or the beauty of the natural world, and confirms that not only does a God exist, but His nature matches what He revealed in the Bible?
I believe that many of the writings of Christians through the ages (up to and including today), is an attempt by limited human beings to express their experiences with God, when that reality exceeds the ability of written language to fully express. One might even read the Psalms in this same light.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to describe what it is like to walk with Jesus. However, we should understand that the senses are insufficient to replicate this experience. Whether we speak or write words, calling to mind what others see, hear, taste, smell, and touch around them, these can only point to the revelation of God. At best, they can try to describe the joy of a life spent following Him using pale metaphors and comparisons to experiences that can never fully reach the glory of God himself.
Instead, there is one solution for which there is no substitute: Actually taking God at His word, and giving Him a chance – honestly – to show us the truth.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 NLT
This requires some humility, and a willingness to honestly listen to the answers that God provides. Someone seeking God may have to fend against the resistance of evil forces that would seek to contradict Him; however, God is more powerful and – I believe – will reward honest investigation. However, until those around us are willing to accept the testimony that God has provided to His creation, they can never “get it”.
Let those of us who have experienced the amazing, incredible experience of walking with God have some compassion and understanding for those who have not. While we earnestly desire for all to join us in this walk of purpose, completion, and righteousness, let’s not forget that they don’t yet fully understand what this means.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.