November 6, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXIX: Bearing Witness: Building Bridges Not Walls

Sharing What Others Shared With Me

I share my faith with others not only because I am commanded to I share it because I need to. Like Jeremiah I am unable to keep my mouth shut.

But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

Indeed, if I do try and suppress my speech about the Lord or the Bible it then comes out in my writing or reactions to things. The power of Christ compels me forward. I don’t think I have much of a choice in the matter. When I see things that are clearly unscriptural, or even marginally in error I feel compelled to correct the errors or speak to the people so they understand things that are outlined with clarity in the Bible. Some would say that this is arrogance and I am subjectively bringing my bias to the Word and reading what I want into the Word thereby not getting the truth from the Scripture. To this I say that these people more often than not are viewing the Bible through a pluralistic and relativistic lens that can only lead to pain and misinterpretation. The truth of Scripture and its original meaning could only mean what it meant in its original context based on the authorial intent and the intended audience.

When we start arguing over what it means to Andy or someone else in this modern age, this only has to do with how we apply the truth gleaned from the Scripture and is called application of Scripture of which there could be a million plus versions. There is only one original human intent and truth is pulled from that intent. If God intended Sensus Plenior it will become evident to more than one observer, if not it is probably bogus. Most often Sensus Plenior pertains to the larger or whole teaching of Scripture. A case in point is the story of Jonah being in the belly of the great fish for 3 days and Jesus’ comment in Matthew 12:40, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”

Erasing Communication Inhibitors

The thing that would make talking with people about Jesus easier is if they would listen. I categorize the non-listeners into (3) groups. Group (1) are the non-believers that just refuse to hear the message of the Gospel because they are ignorant of the story of Scripture and they are already anti-theistic in their worldview. They are dead in their sins and do not realize they are dead in their sin. Group (2) are those that are theistic in their worldview but the totally short sell God or totally misunderstand who God is. He is not Allah or Buddha. Group (3) are Christians that believe they already know God but really do not, or they believe in errant theology but because they believe they know everything, they feel there is nothing else to learn. In most of these cases there is a presumed intellectual arrogance. People either assume they know what it takes to get to heaven and don’t or they believe God doesn’t exist and are just not willing to entertain or hear things outside their myopic box of limited views. This is often the exact attack leveled against Christians. Myopic Christian worldviews are not as they are painted. Most Christians (like me), but not all, are quite interest other’s worldviews and beliefs as it helps me understand how to reach them in their insulated ivory towers.

Bridging the Chasm Between Us

As mentioned above it is difficult to bridge gaps between beliefs. Both sides usually look at one another with a jaundiced eye and view others as backwards uneducated hicks. Muslims do it to Christians, Christians do it to Muslims and Jews…Christians even do it to other Christians. Admit it folks…we do it to one another. Communication in these situations is critical. Ironing out misunderstandings of one another’s view in the very beginning of conversations is critical or the conversations are destined for failure. Even understandings and accepting common word meanings and terminologies is critical. Most often because of our pluralistic and postmodern society many people cannot even agree on what words mean like: fairness, tolerance and diversity. If you cannot even agree on the terms of engagement how can you possibly expect a coherent and acceptable outcome? Sadly, we have such a messed up and brainwashed society overlap and common ground is a rare thing. With no common ground how can we possible find intellectual and societal homeostasis? In the end if there is a complete inability to reach people through normal means of communication which is often the case, Christians are left to live out the life of a Christian and perhaps, if lived properly, the life lived is the attractant for others. Christianity in these situations, if presented correcly looks like a delicious apple hanging from a tree waiting to be picked. Slowly over time it is possible to bridge even the widest seperations.

Our Conversion Testimony

My redemption or conversion story was anything but uneventful. I have heard others that tell me they were Christians their whole life and had what amounted to a normal unremarkable conversion. To me that is fantastic and remarkable in and of itself. An uneventful and peaceful life is a blessed life and I would’ve loved this path…but it was not to be. As such I now have some interesting material for my sermons, stories and blog posts…probably too much material. No matter what I believe, people's conversion testimony is the most powerful weapon in battle with the darkenss of this world and most powerful tool to witness to others. Bar none.

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