Picture the scene: you’re sitting in class, someone makes a joke about God, and it feels as though everyone is suddenly looking at you to see your reaction. Your cheeks turn a bright shade of red as you look down at your notes, you become incredibly interested in the work that five minutes ago you couldn’t wait to be done with and you desperately hope that the conversation will move on quickly.
As a follower of Jesus, I’ve had this experience often. But why should it be this way? Why should we be ashamed of our faith? And…what does it look like to be a Christian in the classroom?
When it comes down to it, you’re either ashamed of the gospel or you’re not. I know that for a huge part of my walk with God I have been ashamed of Him, and it breaks my heart to say that. Ever since my baptism in July 2015, I have become more and more unashamed of the gospel, because I have realized something so fundamental to our faith that it almost seems stupid me saying it - God is real. He is more real than me, He is more real than you, and He is more real than the world that we live in.
As Jesus’ followers, His Spirit is living within us - we are never alone, He is always with us, and we have the same power in our hearts that raised Jesus from the dead. What’s more, the Bible is more than just some nice ideas, or something that could be true; the Bible is truth. And the moment we realize that, it changes everything. Your perspective changes, your eyes are opened, and you start to live life in all its abundance, exactly as Jesus planned since before you were born.
When we realize that we don’t need to defend God and we don’t need to fight to prove His existence, things become a lot less stressful. I used to have a sort of hit list when it came to evangelism. I would say, “Right then God, today I’ll talk to this person about Jesus, and then next week I’ll tell this person, and I’ll make sure that all of my theology is spot on so they have no chance of arguing against me.”
Since when did showing Jesus to people become a project, something that we can tick off nice and neatly as we go through life? The Great Commission (i.e., us going into the world and telling people about Jesus) should be a natural progression of our relationship with God. It shouldn’t be forced, because the moment it is forced is the moment it can become false, and people will see right through it.
The more I fall in love with Jesus, the more I naturally want to tell people about Him. And I think people realize that it’s my true self speaking; I’m not attacking them, I’m not seeing them as a project, but I’m seeing them as someone who I value and who I want to tell about the incredible life changing experience I’ve had with my Jesus.
I can’t help but feel that true evangelism is all about story telling. It’s about telling people the truth - telling them about the place we were in before we knew God, how we came to know Him, and the amazing things He continues to do in our everyday life. And it’s so important to be real, too. All too often we hear stories that tell about how someone was a terrible, terrible human before they came to know Jesus, then they were saved, addictions were broken, personalities were changed, and now everything is perfect and they no longer struggle with anything of the previous life.
Don’t get me wrong; these testimonies are awesome. But I sure do know that not all of our stories are like that. I know mine isn’t. I know that I’ve still done some pretty awful things as a Christian, and I know that I sometimes still act as though I haven’t been bought back from the kingdom of darkness by Jesus’ blood. But our stories aren’t just about the “then-and-now.” They’re about the on-going difference that Jesus is making in our lives.
Testimonies don’t always have to be our whole life story. They can also be about something seemingly small that God has done in our mundane day. Perhaps you prayed for peace just before going into an exam, and you felt a wonderful sense of calm. Or maybe you lost your car keys, and prayed to find them, and you did. Or perhaps you woke up feeling like you couldn’t face the day, but you read an encouraging piece of scripture that really got you motivated for the day ahead.
These small testimonies are just as powerful as the ones that tell of our whole life story, because they show how Jesus is ever so present in our everyday life. They show that Jesus is not just a one-time event, but also an on-going journey.
So how do we become unashamed of our testimonies? How do we avoid situations similar to the one I mentioned above, where we just wish the ground would swallow us up there and then?
1. More time with Jesus
First and foremost, we spend more and more time with Jesus. As I said before, the more time we spend with Jesus and the more we fall in love with Him, the more we will naturally be able to speak about Him to others, and the less embarrassed we will be when people mock, scorn, or hate us.
2. Praise God in your suffering
Secondly, we remember the words found in 1 Peter 4:16:
“…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
PRAISE GOD that we bear the name Christian. Praise God that He has saved us from death, and is with us every single day. Praise God that nothing - not even the hatred of others - can take that away from us. Praise God that the only worthy thing in our life is Christ. Praise God that people recognize Jesus in us enough to mock us for it. Praise God that for every hateful remark, we have a blessing waiting for us in Heaven. Praise God that Jesus went through the ultimate shame so that we could be unashamed. Praise God, praise God, and praise God.
3. Emmanuel, ‘God with us’
Thirdly, remember that God is with you. Remember that He is sat right by your side as people hurl insults your way. Remember that He cries when you cry, and He rejoices when you rejoice. Remember that He is Emmanuel, God with us. Remember the words of Jesus in John 14:27:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We have an inner peace that cannot be taken away from us, no matter how hard people try. Holy Spirit is living within us, and He always enables us to find that secret place of serenity, even when the storms are raging angrily around us.
4. Not your words, but His
It’s so important to know that when we speak about God, they aren’t actually our words, but they are His. Luke 21:15 in The Message translation says:
“Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.”
Keep praying that Jesus will give you the words to say, because He will. We don’t need to memorize a perfect formula for telling people about Jesus; we need to remember that there is no perfect formula, because every person and every situation is different. God is more than capable of giving us the words to say when we need them. What’s more, even if we feel like we’ve done a rubbish job of telling people about Jesus, Holy Spirit will still use the words we said and change the hearts of those we spoke them to. Holy Spirit can use anything we say for God’s glory. He won’t let anything go to waste.
5. Jesus saves, not you
Ultimately, we must remember that it isn’t our job to do the saving of souls. That’s Jesus’ job. It’s not good to look at how many people we have led to Jesus, because it was never our right to dictate how many people we should or shouldn’t see saved. Perhaps you were always meant to plant seeds of salvation, and it is somebody else’s role to see the fruit of those seeds. We as the Church are a body - and each part of the body has a different role to play. So don’t panic.
God is capable of defending Himself, and we are His vessels. We should remember that it is an incredible privilege to be involved in this amazing mission to save the world, but we also need to remember that it is still God doing the saving. He can still save people even if we don’t feel like we are doing a good job of evangelizing. Jesus has the main role in the play, and we are the extras.
We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves, and just be simple about it. We need to stop reeling off heavy arguments and huge theological points and start telling people the beautifully simple, everyday impact that Jesus has on our lives.
The amazing thing about persecution (whether that be mocking in the classroom or facing death every single day for your faith) is that it advances the Gospel. The more people mock Jesus, the more He has an opportunity to shine.
If anything, opposition only makes me run faster to the Cross and gives me even more determination to spread His word. Knowing that Jesus faced the ultimate opposition, persecution, mocking, scorning, and hate is where my inner strength comes from. Anything I face in this life is nothing in comparison to what Jesus faced. While He was being crucified, He was still God. He could have come down from that Cross-at any point, He could have made everyone who was hurling insults and violence at Him fall at His feet. Yet He didn’t. Jesus hung on the tree that He made, all for the sake of saving my soul. And this reminds me that I have absolutely nothing to lose, because I have already gained everything I could ever need - an eternity with my Savior.
'[Jesus said] “People will hate you, shut you out, insult you, and say you are evil because you follow the Son of Man. But when they do, you will be blessed. Be full of joy at that time, because you have a great reward in heaven."'
(Luke 6:22-23 NCV)
Alice is 18 and from England. She gave her life to Jesus about 5 years ago, and was baptized in July 2015. She feels that she is called to creative evangelism after receiving many prophecies from various people. She's a keen musician, photographer, writer, and speaker, and she hopes to involve all of these passions when sharing the love of Jesus to the world. She looks forward to moving to a city to attend university, engrossing herself in youth culture and wider communities.