I couldn’t help but notice a significant chunk of truth laid at the end of Deuteronomy 6. In Jewish history, family was everything. Sadly, we can’t say the same today. But for them it was important because the family is what made up each tribe of Israel, and it was through the family (specifically, the great-great-should-already-be-dead- grandfathers and fathers) that each new generation learned about God, work, and society in general. Without a tightly-knit family, the Israel of the past would have been doomed. When telling the newest set of kids about God, the Hebrews would talk about what God did in Egypt for them and of God’s faithfulness. Check this out…
“‘When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules [the Ten Commandments] that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.”” (Deuteronomy 6:20-24)
Cool story, bro. But just how effective would simply remembering the past be after centuries upon centuries pass? Think about how kids act in curiosity.
A child would never go up to their parents randomly and ask, “Mom, what’s so great about broccoli?” Or rather, “Hey Dad, why do we have power drills?” The only way a kid would ask about these things is because they have seen someone use them before or heard someone talk about them. When we ask, “why,” it is because we want to understand an example. Look at the first verse, verse 20. Some guy’s son is asking about the Ten Commandments because he has obviously seen his dad follow them and talk about them. If I never saw my dad use a screwdriver, I would never ask what it was or why he uses it (unless, of course, someone else mentioned it to me — which is another example).
Thinking about this in modern terms, this lead me to the title of this post: When Christians stop acting, people stop asking. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.
For the Israelites, they obeyed God back then because God first saved them and loved them out of his grace. Therefore, living out the Ten Commandments was not a way to attain God’s approval or happiness, but to live in a righteous response to what God had already done for them in Egypt and the Promised Land.
Similarly for us, we obey God in our relationship with him in response to what Jesus did on the cross for us. The story we tell is how God redeemed us from sin and his wrath, much like the Israelite’s story of redemption from Egypt.
Here’s the catch, though: If you are not following Jesus in what you do every day, no one is going to see him in your life. That’s what James was getting at in his second chapter. You can meet new people and tell them you’re a Christian, but no matter who they are the spotlight automatically begins to shine on your actions. Why? Because our salvation is based on how well we obey? Absolutely not. Everyone knows that actions are louder than words. The Gospel is a radically different story for humanity, so when it collides with a human life the heart is left radically different. That’s what people notice. It will be evident in your character.
Will you make mistakes? Of course. Does living for Christ mean you can’t watch movies or listen to popular music? No. Jesus hung out with hookers and corrupt tax collectors and even was told that he partied too hard (Luke 7:34-35). However, people saw that Jesus was a different person in the way he interacted with others, and people today will in the same way see the way you love and how you treat other people (because of God). That’s the point of difference, and that’s what makes people ask.
St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” That may seem like a deep quote, but we can’t neglect the Great Commission. Sharing our faith and preaching the Gospel is a sign that we have experienced God’s love and direly desire to share it with others. As a result, our lives will naturally line up with our Savior. That happens as we get closer to him, and because God is the most glorious, most satisfying thing we will ever witness, people can’t help but want to know more about him when they see him come out in your life.
Let me reiterate: Whether you first tell people about Jesus or not, if you are not giving your life to him every day, then it makes complete sense that people who interact with you don’t see him in you.
If you start worrying about whether or not you are doing the right thing every day, you are going down a dangerous path to legalism. Instead, just give it all to God. Just seek him. Talk to him, and from a grateful heart tell him your concerns and praises. In a relationship between you and God where God is intimately leading your heart, your actions will inevitably follow.