Growing up Southern Baptist I was pretty much taught to share the message of Jesus with anybody within shoutin’ distance. Me and my fellow congregants were even encouraged to go knock on doors in the neighborhood and invite people to hear the ol’ Gospel story. But, before I walked down the aisle of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church at the age of fourteen and proclaimed that Jesus was indeed my savior, the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door to proselytize was only going to happen out of obligation, not heartfelt sincerity.
However, the moment that I realized the love and grace that Jesus had for me, the more sense it made to share the news – to anyone in shoutin’ distance, and I did just that. I was so on fire for the Lord that the only way to shut my mouth would have been to lock me up. But as the years progressed and the embers cooled, my enthusiasm to share the story was replaced with a quiet whisper to those that had already heard, or perhaps to those very few who choose to spark up a conversation on their own accord.
Not only have I ceased proclaiming the gospel to strangers, but I also hear regular affirmations that it is better to “show” people what it means to know the truth rather than telling them the truth. I have heard in many a sermon since moving from my childhood church, people will “get it” if they “see” how Christ has changed your life. So these preachers tell me now: “Just be a good Christian and live by example.” I’ve also had many discussions throughout the years that you can’t persuade anyone to believe, and it’s not our job to tell someone what to believe.
Well, thankfully I still enjoy reading the Bible. I attempt to read it all the way through once a year. Sometimes it takes 13 months instead of 12, but eventually revelation comes. Every once in a while something catches my fancy and I yearn to share that feeling of discovery with others. This morning, during the last chapter of Acts, this is the verse that roared like a lion “…He (Paul) witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.” Acts 28:23
The specific word in the previous verse that really stirred me to write this little diatribe was “persuade.” By the time this verse was written, Paul had already spent years in prison and everyone knew there was no greater example of “The Way” than Paul. But image if Paul simply relied on his behavior of following Christ to spread the truth rather than “…spending morning to evening trying to persuade them.” No, Paul spent a lot of time and energy striving to entice, incite and induce these Romans to change their minds about Jesus. He wanted, with all of his might, for them to believe in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.The last sentence in the book of Acts states “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” Acts 28:31. I don’t think the Book of Acts or “the Acts of the Apostles” is so named just to eulogize the great works of the apostles. Perhaps it is also intended to stir future generations to “act” accordingly. To indeed live by example and persuade others with the Good News. Entice, incite, and induce; every chance you have – share! After all, the verse does not read, “faith comes from seeing and seeing how believers behave,” but rather “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17