208. can I get a witness?
A few days ago I ended my blog entry with the admission that I don’t actively share my faith as a Christian. And let me make it clear that it’s not because I’m ashamed of Christ. On the contrary, I believe that he is the way, the truth, and the life. I believe he died on a cross for the sins of the world. And I believe that he rose again on the third day.
And I could go on and list other things that I believe about Christ but they are all facts about Christianity. Call me a weak Christian, call me ungrateful, call me disobedient, but I don’t want to share a bunch of facts to my non-christian friends. I want to share something deeper, something more profound. I want to talk about why my life ceases to make sense apart from Christ.
But I can’t.
Because facts are all I have.
Yes, it is.
Usually, when Christians ask about how to share Christ with others, the advice they get is to talk about what their life was like before they knew Christ and how it’s changed since knowing Christ. And that’s a good way to go because it’s simple and practical and effective because a non-christian might want to debate facts about Christ but what can they say about what Christ has done for someone personally?
Unfortunately, that technique never helped me because I don’t have much of a before-knowing-Christ to talk about. I first claimed Christianity when I was in the 2nd grade. That’s the year I started attending a Christian school where once per week (or maybe it was once every two weeks) we would all attend a chapel service where we heard messages about God and the Bible and Jesus. I don’t know who it was or what the rest of that particular service was about, but I remember at one of these chapel services, the speaker basically said, “if you believe in Jesus you go to heaven and if you don’t then you go to hell.” And I thought going to heaven sounded better than going to hell and so I prayed some kind of prayer and then I was a Christian.
I don’t remember much of my elementary school days but as far as I can remember, it wasn’t a bad life. I wasn’t dealing with issues like being slapped around by my parents or severe emotional trauma or issues of self-doubt. Back then, a crisis consisted of not being able to find the Lego piece I needed to compete my latest intergalactic battleship. And I was eight so I wasn’t really looking for meaning or purpose in life. I mean, I did consider becoming one of those Lego engineers who designed spaceships for kids with lesser imaginations than mine, but I preferred to keep my designs to myself. Accepting Christ in the second grade didn’t really change much for me. There wasn’t any kind of baggage that I had to be delivered from and I still found myself searching for certain Lego pieces in the bottom of my Lego bucket.
All that to say that there was never really any kind of before and after Christianity for me to draw upon to develop my testimony, and so that method of witnessing to friends kind of goes out the window.
But there’s more to my problem of not wanting to share Christ with others.
See, I attended this Christian school until I graduated and in my Sophomore year I rededicated my life to Christ in a big way (see blog 199). After that I started going to church and all the other things that I thought Christians were supposed to do.
Now, I’m a good Asian kid and so I do what I’m told and I don’t ask a lot of questions. But looking back now, I can see that I was merely aping Christianity – I was going through the motions without really knowing what I was doing or why. And I had questions, but I didn’t ask them because I didn’t know enough to even know how to phrase them and I didn’t want to look stupid and I didn’t want to make waves (the good Asian kid) and most of all, I tried to ignore my questions because I felt like they made me a weak or a bad Christian. There weren’t any other Christians around me who were asking questions, everybody just seemed to know what to say and how to behave and so I assumed there was something wrong with my faith and the only way I knew how to hide this problem was to do more Christian stuff hoping that things would eventually make sense or that God would see how good I was and heal me of my questions.
Neither happened. I burned out on trying to please God through volunteering at church and the questions never went away.
But God is full of grace. He didn’t give me what I wanted (answers to questions) but he brought me back to himself through other means. But it wasn’t the same as it was before. Instead of quiet, self-imposed obedience, I spoke up and started voicing my discontent and my questions. It wasn’t an overnight shift, it began quietly and only among close friends but as I found that more and more people had the same questions, I became less and less inhibited about my questions to the point where I now blog about it on a regular basis.
What I’m trying to get at is the idea that my experience with Christianity hasn’t exactly been something that would encourage others to sign on if I were to tell them my story.
“So why are you still a Christian?”
Because I do believe the facts of Christianity. On top of that, it’s the only belief system that I have (see blog 155).
But behind my questions, behind my less than ideal experiences with Christianity, I know there’s something beautiful and true. Because I do believe the Bible when it says that God is love and even though I’m not sure I understand what love is (see blog 205), I know it’s there and that God will let me in on it one day. Or maybe I’m already smack dab in the middle of it but just don’t know how to recognize it – maybe I’m missing the forrest because I’m staring at a blade of grass.
I don’t know.
But here’s something I do know. I’m getting closer to the understanding that I’ve been searching for. Brian McLaren’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus (see blog 207), and NT Wright’s book, Simply Christian, are opening up the life and message of Jesus in ways that make Christianity far more real to me than ever before.
And it’s exciting and wonderful and I can’t wait to get through these books so I can go back and read them again – they’re both that good. And I can’t wait to write about what I’m learning. Most of all, I can’t wait to have an understanding of what it is to follow Christ – an understanding and excitement that I can share with my non-believing friends. Because that’s what witnessing should be, a spontaneous desire to want to tell others the amazing, life changing news about Jesus.