Evangelism is something we talk about a lot in the Church, but a lot of folks don’t do much about. We know we should, but we don’t. And there’s a myriad of reasons, but at the end of the day, they are excuses. Last night at youth group we were doing the AWANA Trek lesson and that’s what the topic was: sharing our faith. We use the intro videos for Trek and in this episode it featured a recurring character known as Space Highlander. During his question and answer session he made a good point about excuses when he compared them to feet and said, “They stink, and most people usually have more than one.” Ouch. But he was right on the mark.
Later that evening, as I was talking with the pastor, my wife, Kimberly, showed him the clip that has been going around where Penn Jillette, part of the comedy/magic team Penn & Teller and a known atheist, talks about a Christian who gave him a Gideon New Testament after one of his shows. He makes this point about Christians who don’t share their faith:
“I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone, 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 that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Now quite a few folks have picked this up and said that Jillette is encouraging evangelism. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. But what he is saying is honor our beliefs. If we believe that to die without knowing Christ means hell, and if one of us sharing can be used by God to deliver a person into a relationship with his son, Jesus, why aren’t we sharing what we believe? Jillette equates that to hate. I’m sure this causes a few of us to rear back and say, “It’s not hate, it’s just that…” and Jillette already covered that. So did Space Highlander. At the end of the day, it’s an excuse. And passages like 1 Peter 3:15 tell us to be prepared to give a defense for our faith. But you know, we see a more complete picture if we look at the verse in context:
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. – 1 Peter 3:14-17, NASB
The message from Peter is that we’re not to be intimidated and troubled about sharing our faith and living our faith. That’s not supposed to deter us. In fact, he went on to say that when we are reviled and when we suffer, it is better that we suffer for doing what is right than suffer for what is wrong. The implication is that in life we’re going to suffer. So we might as well do what’s right, honor God, and take our licks. Some folks are going to love us. Others are going to hate us. But we’re to love all. We’re to love our enemies. And wanting or refusing to intervene in someone receiving punishment isn’t love. Maybe some wouldn’t go so far as Jillette in calling it hate. I won’t argue that position. But I will stand by mine in saying that it most certainly doesn’t demonstrate love. We need to share our faith. Not only because God tells us to in His Word. But for the very reason He tells us to do so: because we love those around us.