I have never had anyone approach me and say, “I noticed how nice you were to your waitress when she messed up your order. Please tell me what I must do to be saved.” But for some reason we still have this ideal in our minds that people should be able to recognize that we are Christians as soon as we walk through the door. “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words,” is how it is often said. But it isn’t working. While being a great employee, a respectful student, and a faithful friend are all great reflections of Christian character, on their own they come up short of sharing the good news of Jesus. People may walk away thinking you are a kind or patient or gracious person. They may even walk away with a lovely sentiment like, “There is still some good in this world.” But they are not walking away with any more knowledge of the good news of Jesus than they had before. And there are at least two reasons why.
1. Sinners can be nice too.
It isn’t just Christians who help the poor, adopt orphans and fight injustice. Non-Christians do all of those things. Christians do no stand out when we do good works because we aren’t the only ones doing them. Go to YouTube and type “Good Samaritan” into the search bar. These aren’t just followers of Christ who are going out of their way to help people. While we are certainly honoring God by doing good to “the least of these,” we are fooling ourselves if we believe that we are preaching the gospel merely by our good works.
2. We’re lousy at being godly.
The second reason people aren’t blown away by our outstanding Christian character is because it is often lacking. Let’s face it, we are lousy at being godly. This is unacceptable and inexcusable, but it’s also undeniable. We are all works in progress. And unfortunately, we are not often noted for being gracious with the new cashier in training at the grocery story because we usually aren’t. And we are not noted as being patient parents by people who see us interact with our children, because we often aren’t. We are not as “Christian” as we would like to be.
Share the gospel with two words.
We are going to mess up. We will be jerks to a co-worker, we will lose our cool with a barista, we will say something rude to our professor. We are hypocrites. But the good news is, there is not a more effective way to share the gospel with the world than by saying “I’m sorry.” What sets Christians apart is humbly walking back into Starbucks, standing in line, and telling the barista you’re sorry for how you treated him or her.
As Christians, repentance should come as second nature to us. It is the first thing we did when we decided to follow Jesus. The world calls us hypocrites, and unfortunately they’re not wrong. Instead of being offended, let’s simply apologize for it.
My challenge to you is this: the next time you blow it and “ruin your witness”, go back to the counter and tell the cashier, “I’m sorry for letting my temper get the best of me. I am a Christian, but I acted like a hypocrite. Please forgive me.” Those four words, “I am a Christian,” is all they need to associate your actions with the gospel. And the best part is:
- You are sharing your faith in a way that most people won’t be offended by. Who gets offended by an apology?
- They’re assumption that all Christians are hypocrites is preempted with an emphatic, humble and apologetic, “Yes we are!” which can break down walls that have been built because of past hurt from unhelpful Christians.
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