Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Faith on the Street

Jesus talked about people who live their faith so that other people can see them.

Jesus said: Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.    Matthew 6:1-6
Sharing our faith is a tricky thing.  On the one hand we are told to go and share the good news of Jesus with the world- we believe we have something beautiful to offer others.  On the other hand we are told to be careful of practicing our piety before others - if we share our faith the wrong way then we can easily turn people against religion.
We have to ask ourselves, "Is this way of sharing our faith focused on us or on the receiver?"      Because its easy to share in the way we want to share, its harder to figure out how does the unchurched, the receiver, want to hear?  
Its fun to share our faith in a way that shows the world how good we are, how holy, how nice.  Its a lot harder to go into the places where unbelievers hang out and just be with them - the way Jesus was with them just eating and drinking and hanging out, showing that  he wouldn't judge them but came to love them.  That was Jesus' evangelism plan - hanging out and loving people as they were.  When Jesus was on street corners he was healing people, touching them, answering their needs that they brought to him.  His public preaching was mostly outside the city, or in the synagogue -- places where people had to choose to go to hear him.
So it troubles me that our Iowa governor has made a declaration that the Bible should be read publicly in every county in Iowa in the next few weeks.  
This troubles me for a few reasons, 
1. its a violation of church & state -- a principle that protects churches as much as it protects the state and individual rights
2. Jesus says not to do stuff like this and I'm a follower of Jesus.  This is standing on the street corner showing how good, and religious we are -- its designed to make us look good, and not to serve others or make the world a better place.
3.  The most important reason is that its not good evangelism.  Reading the Bible out loud to people going about their business on a beautiful day isn't an act of hospitality, it is an interruption. Its annoying.  It makes us look like crazy people, religious zealots, and unchurched people don't want any part of that.  When I pass by the guy who reads the Bible on the street corner in Spencer, I feel the same way - he looks crazy to me and I am embarrassed by him.  

I won't participate in this event, and I hope that the rest of the ministers in Dickinson County and in Iowa will not participate.  I hope that instead of reading the Bible out loud, we can organize days of service and caring.  Hand out free cookies on the street corner quietly.  Clean up the beaches or trails together as churches.  

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