I’ve met folks who think that if Jesus walked among us today like he did back in Galilee, we’d be so much better off in our Christianity. How could we ignore him, they ask, if he was right here in front of us?
Judging from the people who were right in front of him a couple thousand years ago, it doesn’t look all that hard to do. Jesus even mentions how people seem to hear him but never really listen to him, and ends this part of his message with the well-known parable of the two men building houses. One, we read, builds on sand and his house is destroyed in the storm. But the other built on a solid foundation and because he did, his house survived the storm.
Of course, we in Oklahoma would add that the second man was in an interior room on the lowest floor of his house, away from windows and doors, which is also why he survived.
Jesus divides his hearers from his listeners with this story. People who just hear his words and never much bother with them afterwards may have built themselves a house of sorts, but their “faith,” such as it is, is unlikely to survive any strong test. But people who listen to him will ground their new beliefs and actions in something solid, and are much more likely to survive when life tends to not go their way. Which life has been known to do now and again.
I got interested in how this story bears on our evangelism – on our sharing of faith. Many of us find it difficult to share our faith, and some folks never actually tell anyone else about what God has done for them. Ever.
I heard a statistic from the General Board of Discipleship about how they averaged together the number of times Methodists said they shared their faith with how many Methodists there are, and came up with the figure that the average Methodist shares his or her faith once every 127 years.
Not really, of course. Some share every day, some a little less often, and some every now and again. But there’s enough who say they never talk about their faith with someone else that we’re pretty well below average.
There are several reasons for doing that, and I’ve used as many as anyone else has, I suspect. We may not feel comfortable doing so. We may believe we don’t know enough about our faith to talk with someone else about it. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want our friends to think we’re those holy-rollin’ pushy churchy types who want to get in everyone’s business and stop anyone from having fun.
Some of those are good reasons. There are people who get pushy when they talk about religion, and people who get rude or who talk a whole lot about judgment and not a lot about grace. In short, there’s plenty of people who go about it the wrong way, and we should try not to do that ourselves.
But what kind of faith are we building if we never share it with anyone? After all, we’re in relationships with God because we believe it’s changed our lives, right? We wouldn’t be the people we are without God, and we might not have been able to handle some of the things that have come our way without knowing we could depend on God. If that’s really true, then can we really keep quiet about it? Can we really keep it to ourselves? I’m not certain, but I don’t think we can.
In this case, I’m suggesting that we each build something when we decide to share our faith or to not share it. We build a house of faith, so to speak, and I think our choice to share or not share represents what we’ve chosen as our foundation.
Not sharing is a decision we base on things like how other people see us or how we feel uncomfortable doing so, or how we don’t know enough and we might not be able to answer their questions. If I review the times I’ve used those things as my reasons, I can only come to the conclusion that I’ve built on sand.
See, I can learn what I don’t know. And I can share in a loving way. And sometimes whether or not people like me isn’t the most important thing going on in the relationship. All of those conditions can change, just like sand can shift in the wind and the storm. That’s not the sand’s fault, because it’s supposed to shift in the wind. But if I try to treat sand like it’s solid, well, that is my fault.
On the other hand, I have clear guidance from God about why I should share my faith. Like I mentioned, God changed my life and I want him to change other people’s lives, too, for the better. Also, there’s a couple of places where that’s what I’m told to do as a Christian.
It may be harder to step out and risk sharing faith. It may involve more work, and it sure looks easier to me to just look the other way and go on about my business.
Jesus never said building on rock was easy, though. He just said it was a better idea.