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Commonsense Christianity

I became a Christian at 19. For the first 25 years, I diligently attended church services, which means that I came into regular contact with Christians comfortable in that setting, and for the last eight years, I have been transitioning into a more independent state, finding fellowship with seekers and believers in alternative formats.

Black kitten photo by Steve Henderson Fine Art

Small, weak, helpless and fragile — it’s okay, and honest, to feel this way. Our God is strong. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art

What I’ve encountered, in those 33 years, are far too many Christians who feel insecure, ineffective, inferior, timorous, and apprehensive. If there is any possible spiritual fault they could have, they’re convinced they’ve got it — they don’t have enough faith (Fault Number One), they don’t read the Bible enough (actually, this one is easily solved — just read the Bible more), or this one, which sounds like a Bible verse but isn’t:

“I am not bold enough for Christ.”

Search for It

Type “be bold for Christ” into a search engine and eventually you’ll find Ephesians 6:19-20, in which Paul states,

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly (boldly) make knows the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Oh, yes, we sigh — I need to be bolder. That “ambassador in chains” part, however, is vaguely disquieting.

We also encounter Acts 4:29-31, in which the believers in Jerusalem prayed for courage in light of persecution from Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel:

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

What you will not find, however, is any verse that specifically says, “Be bold for Christ,” which is what many Christians hear from the pulpit, on TV, or in books. The end result for many is a continuous state of castigation:

Define “Bold”

“Why can’t I be bold for Christ?” (women, especially, ask themselves this a lot). “He died for me, and I’m such an ungrateful, cowardly little worm that I can’t go out and proclaim His message with boldness.”

Reflection inspirational original oil painting of young girl on beach with woman jumping in puddle by Steve Henderson

Actions don’t need to be big to be bold; the smallest steps, taken by the least powerful people, can be mighty indeed. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries.

Well, first of all, it might be prudent to ask, what do you mean by, “being bold for Christ”?

If it involves handing religious tracts out to total strangers; or loudly announcing, “I believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ!” in your college classroom; or feeling obligated to answer questions like, “Would Jesus attend a Gay Pride Parade?” (belligerently argumentative challenges like this remind me of the Sadducees baiting Jesus with their specious questions about marriage and the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33), then it’s understandable why you may feel a bit reluctant to jump in.

When we express misgivings about activities that we are assured are ministerial, and are then slapped with Luke 9:26 and told that we are ashamed of the Son of Man, it’s tempting to back down and acquiesce, but sometimes our reluctance to participate in an activity is because 1) it really doesn’t fit our personality at all and/or 2) our commonsense tells us that we ourselves don’t like being accosted by strangers and put on the spot, so maybe that’s why we don’t want to do it to others.

Individual Action

In a society of Christians where the majority find their meaning and identity in a corporate religious setting, it’s very easy to be pushed, prodded, pressed and compelled into doing things that somebody else — a leader, a speaker, an elder, a teacher, the Pope — deems worthy to be done — “for Christ” — and when we don’t want to do it, we are made to feel at fault.

But according to Jesus, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

That’s a really good place to start, and believing in Him whom God has sent involves getting to know Who, and What, He is, with a logical consequence that we pick up the Bible and read about Him. Going straight to the source is always a good choice, and when each individual believer makes a commitment to learn about God, directly, from His Word, the world winds up with more and stronger believers.

Direct Communication with Christ

Once we get into the habit of dealing directly with Christ, without a human intermediary, we can then address Him with our concerns about our timidity, lack of faith, insecurity, doubts, fears, anxieties, and all the other very real aspects of being a human being. The more we know about Him and grow into loving Him, the more we will naturally talk about him — “naturally” is a key word here, because just tossing His name about as if people will pick up spiritual vibes through hearing, “My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” in conversation, is one of those misconceptions that drives people into thinking that they’re not “bold enough for Christ,” when really, they’re just sensible enough to recognize artificiality when they see it.

As we commune with God in prayer, and grow in knowledge through reading Scripture, our Father will open our eyes to the things that we are uniquely set up to do for Him. This won’t seem difficult or unnatural because we are effectively living our lives, every one of our actions and words imbued with and influenced by the spirit of God that dwells within us and which we have taken time to get to know. We may decide to write a letter to the editor — not necessarily on a specific spiritual issue — but about an injustice we see, and our perspective on it.

Or we may comment, within a conversation, “I disagree with the concept that all people living in a particular country are bad, and that civilians ‘accidentally’ killed in a bombing raid are ‘collateral damage.'”

Bit by bit, we do a little more, are willing to take a slight risk, get slapped back by criticism, fall down, and lick our wounds. And then, by golly, we get up again and keep walking, keep living our lives by the truths we absorb when we study and get to know God and find that — while we may never cease being a bit afraid — we can put that fear in God’s hands, safely, and know that He won’t condemn us.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where years ago, I used to feel like a failure because I’m a quiet person, and I don’t like speaking up in group meetings. And then I realized that I spoke to, and with, people throughout the day — one on one, one on three — and that a well-placed, and genuinely meant, smile worked wonders.

God has made all sorts of people, capable of doing all sorts of things. If the only food available were chocolate chip cookies, that would get really boring — and unhealthy — in very short space of time.

Posts similar to this one are

Why Ordinary Christians Can — and Should — Speak up

Some Days We Feel Pathetic

The Misfit Christian (my book for believers who just don’t like going along with the group)

 

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