The grace of God is an amazing thing. The forgiveness of sins blows my mind. The love of true Christian brothers is inspiring. The words of the gospel… wow. This is all amazing stuff. And it brings a lot of people to Christ like a magnet. But there is another side of Christianity that it tough. A side that’s dirty. Painful. Wretched. Embarrassing. Hard stuff. Messy stuff. Should we leave that stuff out of our witness? I argue that it should stay, at the right time.
I have introduced people to a relationship with Christ by delivering the good news. But not many. But far more often I’ve had to first connect with them on a deeper level. To be blunt, the good news is SO GOOD that it can kind of be hard to believe, right? You need to have the trust of the person you’re speaking to and often that involves connecting on the tough stuff. Are you a perfectionist? Do you struggle with addiction? Ever been hit by a car (or seven of them like me!)? Ever tear down your relationship with your mom and have to rebuild it? I can connect with you. And you all know my position: Step one is to connect. Step two is to bring someone to Christ. It’s not the only way. But it’s my way.
This is tough stuff, but this tough stuff is in my life for a reason. These are the doorways through which I meet people, connect with them, show them that inside this Christian is a real human being that is battered and bruised. I’m not the wistful daydreaming optimist who only believes in Christ because he’s never seen darkness. No. I found Christ right square in the middle of the darkness where I needed him the most. People need to know that. People need to know that Christ did not come to save the perfect. As he said himself, if you’re not sick, you don’t need a doctor. I’m sick, and in ways that others can relate to.
Back in the day I used to race bikes. And I worked at a bike shop. I sold a lot of helmets. Why? I rarely described the features and benefits of the various helmets. Helmets, like salvation, don’t seem entirely necessary until it’s too late. So I tell them my story about when it was too late. I tell them about surviving with about seven minutes to spare all because I was biking without a helmet. I let them touch the dent in my head where to this day I still have a hole in my skull that will never heal. And they buy the helmet.
Why? Because delivering the good news of helmets has its limits. You need a key that fits into the slot of this person’s life that you’re talking to. And my painful experience of nearly losing my life over something as simple as a helmet makes that connection. I needed that pain to be able to connect with people.
And trust me when I tell you that salvation is more important than helmets. (Although depending on your helmet use you might need salvation a bit earlier than you thought!) So don’t ditch the tough stuff. At some point, the people in your life need to know that Christ is not just for those who have had a smooth road. These difficulties have been placed in your life for a reason: to act as connectors to other souls who very badly need to hear your story so they do not feel alone in theirs.
Don’t clean it up. The messy stuff is what connects. And connection is the first step toward creating a new believer in Christ. Be proud of your pain and use it as the key into the lives around you who need to understand the amazing grace of our Lord.
Having a tough time telling the tough stuff? I get it. I’m used to it. But it was really tough at the beginning. Shoot me an email or leave a comment and we’ll work on it. Baby steps my brothers and sisters.
We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.