I remember walking home from a friend’s house, long ago in the wee early morning hours. It was a short walk, just a few streets over from her apartment to mine. At two a.m., you’d think it would be a quiet walk home – it wasn’t. As I walked along the bars were closing down for the night and people were spilling out onto the streets.
Amidst the crowd, I heard a loud voice proclaiming something about “sinners beware of the second coming” and “the wages of sin is death” and something terrifying about hell. What in the world is going on? I wondered as I walked closer. And then I spotted him. A good friend of mine, standing on the sidewalk with a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker, preaching to a crowd of drunken peers who probably wouldn’t remember it in the morning. People insulted him, people laughed at him. Some rolled their eyes and kept on walking. I did too, because it was late and I was tired and I knew if he recognized me he’d want me to join in.
I thought no one would remember, but I was wrong. The next day, a girl I had recently befriended called me. “I need to ask you a question,” she said, “and your answer has to be yes or no.” I had no idea what she wanted, but I said, “okay, what’s your question?” And it hit me hard. “Do you think I’m going to hell?” I tried to skirt around the question, to talk about it in a different way, to show the love of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for me and for her, too. But she wasn’t interested. “Simon told me you think I am. So, do you?” Simon. The friend I’d seen outside the bars. “Do you!?” She kept asking. With a heavy heart, I said yes. And she never spoke to me again.
I was so angry with Simon for throwing me under the bus, and for ruining a budding friendship. Sometimes I think about her and pray that she will have met another Christian who will have done a better job than Simon and I did.
All my life, I’ve thought the best way to share the love of Jesus to others is the best way to point them to Christ. After all, it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. So I needed to think about what that looked like, and try to figure out a way to do it.
If I live Biblically, I’ll be different and then people will notice and ask. This was my first idea, and it does work – but it takes a long, long time. You really need to get to know people and have in depth conversations for them to see you are different. After all, we all look the same on the outside.
If I give my non Christian friends a Bible, they can see for themselves. I’ve done this several times over the last twenty years, but it’s also not very effective. It’s one thing to give it to someone, but they might not have the desire or motivation to read it. In fact, I learned that many of them had Bibles in their homes already. Some just added my gift to the pile.
If I invite people to church, they can experience God and see that Christianity isn’t boring. I’ve tired this too, but many times the invitation falls on deaf ears or multiple excuses are made to not attend.
While I still do all of those things, the best and most effective method of witnessing I’ve found is just to love others. To show up for them. To help them when they need help. To give from my heart. To offer a shoulder to cry on.
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lordyour God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
When we love people, amazing things happen. Change takes place in their hearts because God is extending His love and His kindness through us.
On another night, years before, my parents went out to rent a movie. (Yes, I know I’m dating myself!) Outside the Blockbuster was a teenage girl, about my age, sitting on the sidewalk as they went in. When my parents choose a family friendly movie it seems like forever before they make a decision (which is not a bad thing), so they were surprised the girl was still there when they left the store. After a quick chat with her, they decided to bring her home with them. It was a cold, fall evening in Eastern Canada and her sister and her sister’s boyfriend had left her behind after they’d had a fight. Her parents were out of town (or out of the picture, it wasn’t clear), and she didn’t have any money, phone, or even a proper jacket or anything to keep her warm. So she came home to our house for family movie night and we set up a cozy bed for her on the couch by the wood stove.
After breakfast the next morning, my parents drove her home and I have never seen her since. But I know that night left an impact on her. And it left one on me too. Because that was the love and kindness of God at work in my parents life, extended to that girl who was abandoned and afraid.
If my parents could do something like that, could I? Absolutely. And I have found that it’s small things like that which give me an opportunity to share the gospel with others who might otherwise be opposed to hearing it.
Recently a friend of mine reached out to ask if I’d be willing to make a meal for a new friend of hers who had three young children and who had just had premature twins. I didn’t hesitate and prepared a vegetarian meal for the family, who had specified they could not eat anything but halal meat. I was unsure of how to prepare that, so I went in with my vegetarian meal and vegan cake and they were so touched that we would make a meal for someone we didn’t even know, especially since they were Muslims and not Christians. It gave the opportunity for us to chat about God and all because of a simple meal.
Kindness and love are easy to extend to others, and when we do so, we are living out the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbours. I’ve found it to be the strongest testimony, and I’m so grateful for every chance I have to share the gospel in this way.
But at the end of the day, witnessing in whatever form you take is a heart response to the love of God. Out of your deep love for Him you should listen to His voice and direction, and be open to respond in whatever way He leads. Even if it scares you, even if it seems risky. After all, we were called to spread His gospel to all the nations. So listen carefully, and be prepared. What is He calling you to do?