February 25, 2016
Do you ever take the opportunity to share your faith? And, if not, why not?
I was struck recently by a quote from an interview with Penn Jillette (from the magician duo Penn & Teller) an avowed atheist who had this to say about the subject – “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.” ~ Penn Jillette
Basically, he went on to say that Christians are “holding the keys to the Kingdom, and they’re keeping them to themselves.”
So if you don’t share your faith, why not?
It’s a question each of us could ask ourselves – myself included. Is it because we believe we have faith but somewhere there’s a niggling question if it’s real? Are we afraid of rejection, ridicule or worse? The fact is, most of us won’t share our faith even with our families, our spouses or our friends; much less a stranger. Is Penn right that deep down we hate them, or don’t care?
How do you know, the person you passed up today, could have been praying for someone to talk to and God sent you? And, you walked on by.
Penn went on to say that he was struck by a man who came up while he was signing autographs after the show and handed him a Gideon Bible. “And he said, ‘I wrote in the front of it, and I wanted you to have this. I’m kind of proselytizing,'” Jillette said. “And then he said, ‘I’m a businessman. I’m sane. I’m not crazy.’ And he looked me right in the eyes.
“It was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist. But he was not defensive, and he looked me right in the eyes,” Jillette said. “And he was truly complimentary. It didn’t seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.”
Jillette reiterated his impression of the man’s demeanor.
“This guy was a really good guy. He was polite and honest and sane, and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible, which had written in it a little note to me — not very personal, but just ‘Liked your show,’ and then listed five phone numbers for him and an e-mail address if I wanted to get in touch,” Jillette said.
“Now I know there’s no God, and one polite person living his life right doesn’t change that. But I’ll tell you, he was a very, very, very good man, and that’s really important. And with that kind of goodness, it’s OK to have that deep of a disagreement. I still think that religion does a lot of bad stuff, but that was a good man who gave me that book. That’s all I wanted to say,” Jillette said.
All of this from an avowed atheist. Moved, because someone cared about him and addressed him directly.
Did he change Penn’s views on God that day? Probably not, but I promise you that the Holy Spirit was there with that individual who presented the Bible to Penn; and, a seed was planted.
All of us have opportunities every day of our lives to share our faith with someone who needs to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet, we don’t. Why?
I suspect, that among all of the possible reasons, it’s because it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t like talking to strangers, or we’re afraid that we can’t answer questions, or our faith is a private thing. And so, we don’t just miss, but we pass by opportunities to speak to someone about Jesus.
It’s not an easy thing to do. Growing up in a Baptist Church, I can remember as a child, every Monday night we’d meet at church, gather our religious tracts and then go “door knocking” up and down the street hoping to find someone willing to listen to us tell them about Jesus. None of us wanted to do it and I suspect that most of us hated to do it. We knew that we were inviting harsh comments, doors being slammed in our faces (if they were opened at all) and ridicule from our friends for being such dorks.
As an adult, I’m not sure that’s what God had in mind when he instituted The Great Commission. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Obviously, God would have us share our faith with others. How we do it, I believe, has a lot to do with the opportunities we’re presented with – and then, acting on those opportunities.
Some time ago, I began sharing a Bible verse every day on my Facebook page. I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be, but I decided to do it anyway.
Over the past two years, that Bible verse has been read and shared to the point that some 700 people now see that verse every day. It’s a small thing, but God promises that His Word will not return to him empty. So, I have faith that this one little seed, may be the answer to someone’s prayer today.
And my prayer would be that God gives me both the opportunity and the words to share my faith with someone who needs to hear about the love of Jesus and what he did for us on the cross.
Are you holding the keys to the Kingdom and keeping them to yourself?