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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Boldness for Christ

It happened during the noon hour. I was visiting a friend on board a navy destroyer and as we looked down at the hundreds of men and women milling about on the pier, I spotted Roger.

I called out to him. That was my first mistake.

When he didn't hear me, I shouted a little louder,

"Hey, Roger!" That was my second mistake. This time he heard me.

"Howdy, Rich!" he waved. 

And then he did it. In front of all those people who didn't even know I existed . . . he did it. "Hey, Rich," he shouted. "Do you love Jesus?"

I cringed. Is he crazy! There had to be a hundred thousand sailors gathered along the pier side. And now, thanks to Roger’s recklessness, every one of them stopped in their tracks and stared at me. Time stood still as they waited for my answer.

More than four decade have passed since that moment when the Lord taught me my first lesson in Christian boldness. I needed it back then, and I still need to be reminded of it now. As the world becomes increasingly resistant to the gospel, there is an ever urgent need for those who follow Christ to boldly and without embarrassment share their faith with others.

Over the years I've learned a person can be a bold and effective witness for Christ in many different and much less flamboyant way than shouting from the rooftops. Here are only a few suggestions:

1. Fall deeply in love with Jesus. We’re never ashamed of the one we love. We’re never embarrassed to talk about our beloved. Sometimes it’s all we can do to control ourselves so we do not bore others with talk about our love one. So fall in love with Jesus. Stay in love with Jesus. It will change your perspective about everything and everyone.

How does anyone fall deeply in love with Jesus? We could just as easily ask how does anyone fall in love with someone. The answer to both questions is the same: By spending time with the beloved – time in communication (or, prayer); Time meditating on His love letters to us (e.g. the books of the Bible); Time to be quiet with Him (like turning off the phone, the computer, and the television).  The more time we spend with our beloved, the deeper our love grows – whether with another person, or with our God.

2. Know what you believe and why you believe it.  This is perhaps most important for Catholics who grew up on the front pew, attended early catechism classes, received Confirmation as a teenager . . . and then set the spiritual cruise control for the next few decades.

I’ve heard it said Catholics read the entire Bible in a three year period as the Church wends its way through the Missal Years A, B and C. But the objective thinker soon realizes what we really get are snippets here and there of texts usually out of context. As St. Jerome counseled many centuries ago: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ".

It's much easier to know your faith and to share your faith if you know the root of your faith -- which is God's word. See my 2+2=1+3 Bible reading suggestion at the end of this essay for some helpful suggestions.

3.  Walk the talk. No amount of telling others about Christ can take the place of genuine humility, love, kindness, patience, self‑control, and a holy lifestyle. If the walk doesn't fit the talk, there's little likelihood others will listen to what we have to say about our faith in Christ in the first place.

4. Invite someone to Mass with you. A casual conversation over a cup of coffee can develop into an invitation to attend Mass on the following Sunday. They may say, "No, thank you." Then again, they may say, "Sure, why not?"

5. Pray over food in restaurants. If we thank Him for our food in the privacy of our homes, why should we not thank Him in public places?  If nothing else, it is a silent testimony to others that we are not ashamed of our faith.

I made a third mistake that day. Instead of shouting, "Hallelujah! Yes I do!" I answered Roger's question with a weak, "yes." Part of me wanted to take a bold stand for Christ, but a greater part was too embarrassed to do so before all those people.

I wish I could tell you that I've never missed an opportunity since then to be bold for Christ.  But I've missed numerous such opportunities. Nevertheless, looking back with guilt is not the way to move forward. If you struggle with boldness as I sometimes still do, perhaps my few suggestions may help. We can move forward and fruitfully share the good news of Christ’s love with others.

The 2+2=1+3 Bible Reading Plan:

If you read two chapters of the Old Testament each day (it takes about 10 minutes on average) and two chapters of the New Testament each day (another ten minutes on average) you will read the entire Old Testament once a year and the New Testament three times each year. 

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