Remember the days when people used to get together in a group, share a meal, and talk face to face without masks? Back in that era, not even a year ago, I was talking to a 10-year-old girl during a group gathering in one of those settings.
She suddenly announced, "I hate religion and Christians are such bullies!"
"So why do you say that?" I asked.
She replied, "This boy at schoool told me that unless I believe exactly what he believes, that I will go to Hell. How mean is that! I'm a good person. Just because I don't believe what he believes, doesn't mean that I am going to Hell!"
"I see how that would feel insulting," I answererd. "But in an odd and awkward way he is really saying that he cares about what happens to you. He believes he has the Truth and wants you to have it too. But is he right?"
What if no one out there except God really knows the absolute truth about everything. What if it wasn't about believing exactly all the right things, or doing all the right things, or being good enough. What if it was about much more than whether or not you will go to Heaven or Hell. What if it was about coming to know the God who made you and loves you. What if, by knowing Him and following Him, that you could have a much better life right now. What if you could live a more joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life filled with incredible love, and then as a byproduct, you also went to Heaven when you died?
That would be something to look into. It is a good thing to question what you are hearing. Then you can ask, seek, and search for yourself. See if there is validity behind the amazing story of God coming into the world as a tiny, helpless baby called Jesus , whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. This God/man called Jesus came into our world and experienced all of the emotions and struggles that we do. Why did He do that only to die a horriying death on a cross? He claimed to be the one to forgive sins, to take the penalty for every mess we have made of our lives, every way we have misundertood the Truth, for every way that we have gone wrong and done wrong. For all the things we have done in life that makes us not good enough to go to heaven on our own behaviour and merit. Is there anyone that perfect out there who has ever lived up to even their own standards? Just how good is good enough?
People who follow Jesus believe that He gave his life for us so that, once and for all, we can be restored into a real time relationship with the God who made us and loves us. Read the accounts of the people who were there. Those who walked side by side with Jesus, who did not understand the Truths He said to their faces, and who did not believe that He would really die for us all, or what that really meant. When they saw him die, they thought that was 'The End.' But when they saw the resurrected Jesus walking along side them again, it changed everything. And it has been changing everything for people who choose to follow Jesus ever since. Even if you struggle with doubts and unbelief, following Jesus makes life so much better. Try it and see. The God who made heaven and earth, also made each of us as His own Masterpiece, unique and special and created in His Image. He gave us free will such that we can choose to do wrong and bad things, but also so that we can choose to love Him and one another, and live into the life we were created for.
If you read this far you might be thinking, "Well, nice story about sharing the gospel message."
But here is the twist. I actually never said any of that to the 10-year-old girl. What did I say? I said, "Wow! Well, ummmmm" There was a long pause with that deer in the healight look in my eyes, then the subject changed, the moment was lost, and the conversation went on to other things.
Since then, I think about that day and other days when I wish I could have been more prepared, or had more courage to share the gospel message when a door opened for me in converestation. And I hope I can achieve that sort of conversation when the time is right, but I also rememer Jesus' final instructions for us found in John 13:34-35.
"As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
If we forget everything else, and all words fail us in the moment- if we can just love others the way God loves us, we will be those lights in the world. We will be that hope and encouragement to others around us, and then the words will come to us in God's timing, not ours. More important is that through our love, others might see that our words might be worth listening to, and that the hope we share is real. Let's be ready with the armour of God as descibed in Ephesians 6:15 with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.