I’ve never been good at actively talking about my faith.
Ok, that sounds weird coming from a youth minister who has a blog about faith and Christianity. It’s not like I’m embarrassed of my faith, or afraid of what people will think when I mention Jesus. I just don’t find it coming up naturally in conversation. A conversation about what a nice day it is tends to remain a conversation about the weather, without becoming a conversation about how powerful God is. When my friends and I make fun of each other, nobody tempers it with, “But in all honesty, you’re a precious child of God.”
In fact, if I didn’t work at a church, I wonder how often I would mention God at all outside of Sunday mornings.
I would imagine that most of us have known people who talk about Jesus all the time. If they’re having a good day, it’s a day that the Lord has made. If they’re having a difficult time, they’re struggling, and praying that God will give them relief soon. If they’ve got plans, they’ll do them Lord-willing. If they call you up at random on a Thursday afternoon, it’s because the Holy Spirit prompted them to do that.
Sometimes, I admire that. Sometimes, I beat myself up because I wonder if I’m giving enough credit to God. Sometimes, especially after encountering a friend like this, I pray a quick little prayer to ask Jesus for forgiveness for not talking about him a bit more often.
But the more I think about this, the less guilty I feel about it. Because a friendship is not based on how much you talk about someone, it’s about quality time spent with someone.
And, at least for me, this is how I see my relationship with God.
I was baptized when I was 12. The day after I was baptized, I bragged to all my friends:
“I’m going to heaven now!” (my 12-year-old theology of baptism will likely be the subject of another post)
“I died last night! Now I’ll live forever!”
“Me and Jesus are brothers now!”
If I’m being honest though, I didn’t know God any better the day after I was baptized than the day before. I was name-dropping like crazy, but my relationship with God hadn’t really improved.
Today, I’m happy to say that my relationship with God is much closer than it was when I was 12. Each day I feel like I come to know him better and differently. And yet I don’t name-drop God nearly as often as I used to. I don’t feel any great burden to season my conversations with “God-Talk”. My hope is that my conversations and lifestyle reveal my relationship with God without requiring his name to be mentioned at all.
Because here’s the thing for Christians – Christ is always present in us, regardless of whether or not we’re explicitly talking about him. Ideally, Christ’s presence is so overwhelming, that everyone around us can see the Love of God shining through us in everything that we do.
St. Francis of Assisi has that famous quote: “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary, use words.”
Perhaps that’s something we ought to take to heart. If we let Christ transform us into the image of God, the Gospel will be preached, and we may not have to say anything to do it.
Now, I’m not saying that people who talk about Jesus all the time are shallow in their faith, or that they don’t know God as well as I do. Many of these people are so confident and comfortable in their relationship with Jesus, that it is second nature to mention him. For many, these are expressions of a deep faith and an intimate connection with God. I don’t want to take anything away from that. I just want to offer encouragement to those of us who can’t talk like that. For those of us who love God with our whole hearts, but feel uncomfortable talking about it all the time, I don’t think that God is disappointed in us. I don’t think that he’s trying to turn us all into public preachers.
I think that God uses silent preachers for his Kingdom just like he uses anyone else. We just have to be willing to be so overcome with the Love of God that it emanates in everything that we do. Because even when we’re not talking about him, we’re talking about him. Even if we’re not mentioning him by name, we’re representing him in our actions and our speech. And that’s just as much a proclamation of the Gospel as talking about it.