The mysterious embrace of Christ
Exactly how any one of us might come to faith in Christ is, to me, one of the great mysteries in life.
All of us as believers have family, friends, associates – shoot, everybody we encounter – with whom we want to share this great gift. And that’s what the Bible tells us to do – make “disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-22) even to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “How” we should do it boils down to replicating, as best we can, the unselfish and sacrificial love of Jesus. Jesus gives us “why” in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Doesn’t everyone want and need peace? Sure, but … actions are misinterpreted, words are not understood, and motives are suspect. We blame ourselves for not “converting” someone. But remember: Jesus had the exact same problem with the Pharisees and Pontius Pilate. History shows us that even the holiest words can fall on deaf, hostile ears.
In our personal lives, it is especially hard to see loved ones firmly entrenched in their steadfast knowledge of the world and rebuff the message of Jesus. We have to be honest with ourselves and ask whether our love is selfish or unselfish because truly, only selfish love can be rebuffed. Yet we can do what Jesus wants us to do as long as we draw breath if our love is truly unselfish. We can also take heart that God isn’t keeping score of anything but our love and our faith. “Souls saved” is squarely the job of the Holy Spirit.
But how does that happen? There doesn’t appear to be a formula.
In my own case, I can look back, track the steps, see what happened, and it all makes perfect sense … now. But I didn’t see it coming, would have run from it if I had, wasn’t really looking, and executed no repeatable “system.”
I think that’s what makes evangelism in general – sharing the Good News of Christ – so difficult. I mean, yes it’s easy to tell a story about how I got here, but impossible to draw a map for someone else’s journey. Only God can do that, and God starts by giving each of us the freedom to accept or deny Christ’s love.
Maybe that’s why one’s journey to Christ is so special, because God makes the path unique and personal. I’m convinced it’s a mystery we can’t embrace until we realize that Christ is first embracing us.
Walters’ (firstname.lastname@example.org) conversion story appears in his book “Common Christianity, Uncommon Commentary” in columns 55-59 and 252-253.