With gentleness and respect

A Response to 1 Peter 3 v 13-16

In response to that epistle of Peter, I want to talk about asking questions, listening to people’s hearts and sharing the faith that you have, with gentleness and respect.

To begin with, I do not want you to feel guilty about this, but liberated. Not bible bashing, not proselytization, not bad news, not ‘born-againing’, not sidling up to people with false grins and asking if they know where they will go if they die tonight. It’s a fair question, but without love it will be heard as a threat, and we have turned the good news of Jesus into bad news.

Inside Language

On Thursday I called the IT support desk at work, and after a short introduction I explained my problem. The techo, a competent person of the highest integrity who is employed to help the totally ignorant, asked ‘do you have Vee pee in?’ I had to answer ‘ I don’t know, is that like HIV?’ ‘What about Snap do you have snap?’ I will just look – I think so. I tried it last month and couldn’t get in.’ ‘What is your snap username? ‘Is that the same as ESS, TRIM or Pheme? I felt so smart asking that question’ ‘No it is not the same. Can I look it up for you?’ ‘Oh please do….’

When we share our faith, our listeners are often lost in the flow of our intelligent, competent, helpful, interactive gobbeldegook. We have to start in plain speech, and if you can’t do it, you need to put yourself where you can learn to. That is sort of obvious so I am moving right along.

On Friday I called a hospital inpatient enquiries – they too should also be tuned to the enquiries of outsiders. I couldn’t find the number in white pages under the hospital name, I had to look under the health dept in that state and go down a long list to then find another long list in order to find the enquiries number. Giving the name of the patient, the man said what sounded like ‘just wait’, and the line went dead.

After a while they came back on line and said ‘ you have been transferred back to me which ward transferred you?’

‘I just heard a long blank, I have no idea.’

Evidently, so it turned out, ‘just wait’ was actually S8, which was the number of a hospital ward, and I was supposed to know that, never having been to that hospital.

It’s another case of those who are on the inside the institution forgetting what it is like to enter one.

Here is my point. Those of us who are more used to Christian faith also forget, as even this public enquiry person did, to explain what we mean and why we do it and we leave people feeling like children lost in the supermarket.

After thirty years of studying this phenomenon, and reading the surveys, and comparing it with what actually happens, I am coming to the view that most Christian people in our own minds overestimate our capacity to communicate clearly about Jesus with people in the community. We aren’t the only ones, as my examples this week show, but it is central to our life purpose to be witnesses to Jesus. We could have learned. You cant learn it just in church by listening and you have to join a small group. That’s all too obvious also.

So, How prepared are you?