Several years ago I began to explore, through writing, various questions about the life in Christ. There were issues I needed to work out for myself, and writing seemed the best way to do that. Friends suggested that I could minister to others through my writing. For several months I re-read various good Christian authors to see how they communicated ideas. Without getting too far, I was immediately humbled and deflated. I saw the difference between writing and WRITING! My own work seemed stunted and dwarfed in comparison. In a painting analogy, I was making tiny little marks in one corner of a huge canvas, while these others filled the whole canvas with astonishing images and colors. I was quickly disabused of the assumption that I had anything to say which had not already been said better. In many cases I was completely blown away by the author’s use of language and the extraordinary beauty of their art. I have had to accept my own limitations.
However, as time went on, I came to realize that in spite of all the superb language of these authors, God had been able to lead me to much of the same truth. It may sound arrogant to assume that I know anything at all; I am not formally educated in theology, and have no credentials worth noting except that of experience. Yet, it occurred to me that God has not required multiple post-grad degrees in order to reveal Himself to people over the millennia. It was encouraging to realize that God, the Master Teacher, can teach even me ~ just an average person, but wanting to hear His voice and follow Him faithfully.
God, omniscient and all loving, is able to take each of us where we are and find a way to bring each of us to the same wisdom. We each have our own journey, but the goal at each journey’s end is identical. God wants us to know His forgiveness through His Son, to help us come to reconciliation with Him, and to find an intimacy and fellowship with Him which we can both enjoy. I am called to minister through the surroundings and circumstances into which God has placed me. That means I am not to envy and wish I had different gifts. I am called to do what I am able to do, and He supplies both the will and the ability to do this. I am to bear in my spirit and mind the imprint of Christ, no matter where or how God has situated me, and life is the process of learning how to do that.
In His grace, God has given us all His Word, and the gift of Jesus Christ, Who revealed God in His own character. In His teaching, Jesus came to people where they were, and used what they already understood to explain what was new. His parables were about the things in the lives of his hearers with which they were familiar: lamp stands and wine bottles and lost coins, sheep and vineyards and wedding feasts. This is the best pattern for sharing our faith, also. To be Christ’s person is not just a dry-as-dust philosophy, a cerebral formula for debate. Instead, it is the way we process every detail of our lives; our fundamental understanding of how the universe operates and our place in it with God. Ideally, it is a life lived with Christ having been integrated into the smallest detail.
Our degree of spiritual wisdom is dependent on how we respond to Him and to His teachings, and has little to do with our socio-economic backgrounds or our IQ’s. A person with very little formal education but a simple, unwavering faith in Christ may have a spiritual wisdom far beyond the cynicism of an apostate Doctor of Divinity. We all start by reading His Word and by carefully observing Christ. Together, they reveal all we need to know about the character of God, and His desire for intimacy with us. We each translate this, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, into wisdom appropriate for our own lives and circumstances. My faith journey may, on the surface, bear little resemblance to the journey of another ~ but in the end the same purposes will have been served: to know God and to love Him, and to be conformed to the image of Christ in our character and spirit. Our mutual goal will have been the same: to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Communicating our faith through any medium is a tricky thing. Sometimes I am discouraged by the way we Christians explain our God. As I listen to some of these tired old phrases and clichés, spoken over and over until they have lost all meaning, my spirit droops. Any liturgical style may become simply habitual and sometimes we just need to be truly genuine and vulnerable, and find a way to share our love of God in a way that makes people sigh, “Yes! That’s just it!”
Words about faith must be translated into relationship; relationship with Him, and relationship with others. He wants us to be real with Him; He invites us to tell Him everything on our hearts. We often just mumble the same old platitudes, when a genuine intimacy offers us the freedom to be totally open with God. We cannot impress Him with our polite phrases and formula driven words. He wants us to enjoy Him, to revel in Him, to love Him with abandon. Although He already knows every single thought, every single emotion that is in us, He wants us to trust Him enough to tell Him all those things ~ bad, good, indifferent. What He wants from us is the relationship and communication of intimacy.
In our dealings with others, He wants us to try to see people with Christ’s eyes. There are people around us who may be difficult. As Christ’s followers, are we able to see that these wounded ones are the people who need Christ the most? We are told to bind up their wounds and heal the broken hearted with the truth of God’s love, expressed though our actions and by genuinely caring for them. We cannot draw up our pristine skirts and pass by on the other side. The Gospel is more than just a way of salvation for me and my family, a life~style, a comforting ritual. It is a life force, a way of seeing and understanding people: those who are hurting and lonely and for whom the world has become an alien and terrifying place, or those who have ignored God and live just for themselves. We have a message for others, no matter whom or what they have become. The good news of God’s love can change lives.
None of us can claim that we have no need of Christ. Whether we have been deep in sin, or lived relatively blameless lives, God knows our hearts, and if we are honest we also know that we have not even begun to approach His standards of holiness. We need to minister to one another; encourage and love and uplift one another. We are all broken creatures, searching for healing in the richness of God’s love. We are to communicate with Him, and with each other.
What does our faith really mean? It seems to me that the Gospel is all about our most intimate thoughts and feelings and actions, and that the whole point is that Christ, knowing all of it, still loved us enough to take upon Himself the just punishment for our sin. By sharing our faith through the powerful words of scripture and kindly action, we may all minister to those around us, and bring them hope. That is what communicating God is meant to be.