It is not uncommon in the church for us to urge each other to witness to our faith. Sometimes we assume that sharing stories of our faith is easy to do. I must confess that I have found it incredibly difficult. It might be my personality, but it is tough to talk about things so deeply meaningful and profoundly intimate.
Several years ago, I had a businessman, a young father, by the name of Dan, call me about his church membership. He said he was tired of searching for God and was leaving the church. As I listened to him, I tried to understand his dissatisfaction. We talked about his work, his family relationships, and his contentment with his life. During our conversation, he said, “I feel like I’m running the bases but I never reach home.” Then he said, “I am not sure I really believe in God.”
God Believes in You
My next words to him were words I had used before. I had heard them as a teenager in a Sunday school class. It was there they had taken root in my life and began to shape my understanding of God’s love. Because they were meaningful to me, I had offered them to others through sermons, bible studies, and conversations along my faith journey.
So, I offered them these words to him. “Dan, at this moment, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. God believes in you.” I said, “I know you are searching for God. But have you ever thought that God is also searching for you? Can you imagine that God believes in you so much that God is searching for you?”
What Will You Offer?
I remembered words that had profoundly shaped my understanding of God’s love. They were words of one of my instructors in seminary. At that moment, I offered them to Dan.
“When our parents, Adam and Eve, left the garden of Eden, God whispered in their ear, ‘I will come for you.’ Adam and Eve didn’t understand God’s word as a promise. They interpreted the word as a threat. So, they ran and hid.
As human beings, we have been running and hiding ever since. But God has come searching for us. God has come as a fragile, vulnerable little baby, growing up with the comforts and restraints of home, family, community, and culture.
As he grew up and matured, he worked hard. He experienced both joy and exhaustion. He learned what it was to love and be loved. He experienced what it was to have people betray him. He had a dream of making the world a better place. His dream was rejected. He experienced the pain of having his friends turn against him. He suffered and died for his dream. That is how God has come searching for you and for me.”
I wish I could say that Dan said, “I never thought of it that way before.” Or, “Now, I know that God loves me and my family.” Or, “Thanks Pastor.” The reality is, I had the opportunity to offer hope by offering Christ.
What would happen if you and I began to tell our stories of “being found” by God? What would happen if we took John Wesley seriously and began to “Offer them Christ” as we developed relationships and talked about what was deeply meaningful us?
To Offer Christ, Is to Offer Hope
What I know is this, to offer Christ is an offer of hope. The offer is more than sharing “spiritual facts” which lead to a mental assent to correct understanding and logical decisions. You and I don’t experience hope as a form of indoctrination.
The offer of Christ is not, what I grew up hearing, “closing the deal” for Jesus. You and I don’t experience hope by being manipulated into saying “yes” to carefully worded questions.
The offer of Christ is a two-way process of honest interaction. Because you and I simply do not see everything the same way, we develop a friend-to-friend relationship. So, the offer of Christ is not a single encounter. It is an extended relationship of mutual respect and care. It is within the relationship that hope is developed, experienced, and lived out.
As important as it is, the offer of Christ is more than inviting people to worship or to participate in the programs of the church. To offer Christ is to offer hope to those who are discontent and dissatisfied in their search for God. It is in and through our relationships that we can share our experiences of God searching for us in Jesus. Hope will be found in the love we share. Because hope becomes a sign of who we are.
I believe we can change the world by offering Christ. It is in the offer of Christ that we offer the hope we have experienced in and through Jesus. T. S. Elliot wrote, “the life we seek is not in knowing but in being known, not in seeking but in being sought, not in finding but in being found.”
To offer Christ is to offer hope!