by Alastair Sterne
April 16, 2013
7 min read
It can be daunting, if not overwhelming and anxiety inducing to consider talking to someone about Jesus. If even the thought taunts us, the very act becomes unimaginable. It’s uncomfortable to talk about Jesus. Most of the time, people just don’t feel like they know what to say. So rather than pipe up, we easily suppress the thoughts.
So what should we talk about when we talk about Jesus?
The Gospels demonstrate a simple way to share our faith, and a way that doesn’t overlook the discomfort we may feel in doing so. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus has an encounter with a man possessed with a legion of demons (pause here and give Mark 5:1-20 a read). This is a dark, foreign, and intense scene to us. But surely it was the same for the disciples. Nobody is naturally in their element in a situation like this, except for Jesus. I want to highlight a few things we can learn from this passage in Mark about sharing our faith.
First, sharing our faith takes us out of our comfort zone and it involves risk. The encounter with the man possessed by a legion of demons takes place in the country of the Gerasenes. In other words, Gentile territory. The disciples are immediately taken out of their comfort zone. On the shore, they also encounter a herd of pigs (an animal that no Kosher Jew would want to be near). Jesus takes them completely out of their element, and then they find themselves in a situation with a man so powerfully possessed by demons that he has supernatural strength. He can break chains and shackles apart, what could he do to them?!
Jesus intentionally brings the disciples into this uncomfortable, risking situation to show them just how powerful the gospel really is. It’s not in the safe, comfortable places that we get to encounter the power of the gospel. It’s in the uncomfortable, risky areas of life that we would rather not talk about that we find the gospel’s true strength.
Second, sharing our faith means not discriminating. Mark is very descriptive about the demon possessed man. He is utterly hopeless, no one could help him. The community began to treat him like an animal rather than a person. This is the sort of person that I imagine the disciples would never think to try to share the gospel with. But Jesus sees this man, and he knows the power of the gospel. We must make sure that in sharing our faith that we curb our tendency to only speak to those we assume will receive the gospel. Sharing about Jesus is not about our assumptions, it’s about his power.
Third, sharing our faith means confronting the dehumanizing aspects of the world. The power of evil in this encounter totally robbed this man of his life, his family, his community. Evil robbed him of his humanity. He was utterly dehumanized. While we may not encounter evil in this exact form on a regular basis, we do encounter many systems that dehumanize people. We encounter exhaustion from overwork, dissatisfaction from overindulgence, broken hearts from unfulfilled dreams and misplaced desires, and rampant entitlement (just to name a few things). When we share our faith, we are sharing something incredibly powerful—we are sharing a way to be rehumanized. Which brings me to my next point:
Fourth, sharing our faith means sharing a life that is being made whole. The community marveled that this man who was formerly demon possessed was found “clothed and in his right mind.” We cannot overlook the need for our lives to be transformed by Jesus. It is genuine transformation, not perfection, that makes the gospel plausible to others. It wasn’t until I met someone who was a Christian, who was actually living out their faith, that I began to think “Maybe there is something to this Christian thing after all.” But it was also seeing that they were in process that was deeply comforting. Their new found wholeness was appealing, but their brokenness was reassuring.
Fifth, sharing our faith is sharing an encounter. The demon possessed man begged Jesus that he might be with him. He knew where the true source of life came from, and he wanted to stay with Jesus. Yet Jesus doesn’t let him come with, but rather says “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.” Sharing our faith is that simple. It’s not about having all the right answers. It’s about sharing with people what the Lord has done for us, and how he has had mercy on us. And this starts at home before it starts abroad. It doesn’t have to be complex, its very simple. Be where you are, and share the encounter you’ve had with Jesus. It starts with friends, and in the context of our existing circles before it ever spills out into the streets with strangers. It’s not about abstract truth, it is about Jesus. It’s about sharing how Jesus came into your broken life, made it whole, and saved you.
Lastly, sharing our faith is a commission we receive from Jesus not pastors. It is easy to feel guilt about not sharing our faith. And all too often this guilt is induced by pastors who try to motivate you (probably with good intentions) to start being more active in bringing people to encounter Jesus. But the only true motivator is going to be the gospel. The man who was healed in this narrative in Mark wanted to be with Jesus, and if that meant staying behind and doing what Jesus said, well, he was happy to do it! I don’t want you to share your faith in Jesus because you have to, I want you to share your faith in Jesus because you have had an encounter with him that you can’t contain. So let me suggest something as a challenge: if you’re not sharing your faith, is it because you haven’t had a sincere, life transforming encounter with Jesus? Or could it be that you’ve neglected seeking him in a deeply engaged way?
It’s okay if you feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus. That may never go away. You are after all taking a message into a world that generally doesn’t want to hear it. You’re speaking to a complex society that may respond in many different ways. Some people are apathetic. Some are angry towards religion. Some are open to conversation as long as it stays hypothetical and not personal. The point isn’t getting over our discomfort and fears and mustering up courage. The point is encountering Jesus in such a sincere and true way, that our fears and hesitations no longer hold us back. Jesus shapes us and forms us in a way that makes us overflow with a new vision of what being human looks like under his Lordship. Share your faith with Jesus because the encounter with him is so powerful, merciful, and life altering.
So, what do we talk about when we talk about Jesus? Well, we talk about him, and not our theories about him, but the Scriptural and historical witnesses of him. We talk about an our amazing encounter with the God-man who overcomes all boundaries to seek us, who goes into places of discomfort and risk, who reverses the dehumanizing powers of evil and this world, the one who saves us from our sin and who is making our life whole. We talk about our captivating encounters with Jesus. We talk about someone so incredible, so desirable, so beautiful that we would give up everything just to be with him. We talk about him with passion, because he is so passionate about us.