By Simon Presland
One extremely cold Sunday in January 2014, I opened my bedroom curtain at 7 a.m. and watched the heavy snowflakes plummet down. I glanced over at my wife, Trish. “I’d better get out there and shovel the snow, or we’ll be stuck in our own driveway and miss church.”
After bundling up, I grabbed my snow shovel and headed out through the garage door. I’ve always enjoyed shoveling snow because it’s one of those monotonous tasks where I can let my mind drift and sing songs to the Lord or talk to him about life in general. After finishing my driveway and sidewalk, a thought came to me: Why not shovel my neighbor’s sidewalk? I continued to work and soon found myself shoveling their driveway as well.
When Trish and I returned home from church, we found a note in the handle of our front storm door. It read, “Thanks! The next snowfall is on us. ϑ” and was signed by our neighbors. Since then, we have taken turns shoveling snow in the winter and cutting each other’s grass in the summer during vacations. Why do I share this with you? Our neighbors are not Christians. Since the day I shoveled their driveway, Trish and I have had countless opportunities to share our faith with them and to put our faith into action.
James 1:22 tells us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” As Christians we have been given a great task—to share the gospel wherever we go and wherever we are. In Mark 16:15 Jesus exhorts, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” While you and I may not be able to travel to countries throughout the world, we can share our faith with our neighbors, those who work at stores we frequent, the attendant at our favorite gas station—the list is endless. Yet we also live in a world that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Our culture has begun to view Christianity as bigoted, judgmental, even hateful. So how do we follow Jesus’ commandment to go and preach when people’s reaction to the gospel is becoming more and more hostile?
Sharing the Gospel
With the growing negativity toward Christianity, it is easy to shrink back in fear. But consider this: no one came under greater attack than our Lord Jesus Christ. He faced more hatred, alienation, and isolation than will ever come our way. Jesus was driven by his love for God and his commitment to doing God’s will. And it was his love for people that drew others to him. Jesus shared God’s love, God’s fervency, and God’s passion for his people through his actions. Whether they accepted or rejected his words, no one could deny the love he displayed. This is a great lesson for us today: love is demonstrated through actions first, then words.
In Matthew 22:36, Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (vv. 37-40). When I was a younger Christian, I wanted to share the Word with everyone. I was more focused on speaking the words of Scripture than on meeting the needs of people. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being legalistic. As the years have passed, I’ve realized that if I focus on helping people, my actions often open the door to sharing the gospel.
On my drive to work I pass a particularly busy corner, and I’ll often see a homeless person holding a sign asking for help. One time I saw a young woman, perhaps in her late teens, holding her “help please” sign. I pulled over and asked her why she was out there. Her story broke my heart and I gave her $20, then told her, “Jesus loves you. He died for you and he will take care of you.” Her eyes pooled with tears as she said, “Thank you.” I truly believe that it was God’s love for this woman that prompted me to talk to her, to give to her, and to share the gospel with her.
Touching a Life
No matter where we go, who we are with, or the circumstances we are in, opportunities to share the gospel abound. We won’t recite John 3:16 in every situation, but we can always demonstrate the love of Christ to a world that is in desperate need of his love and forgiveness. Perhaps a family is new to your neighborhood. Is God prompting you to get to know them or perhaps offer a small welcome gift? Your child tells you of a classmate who rarely has clean clothes. Do you sense God asking you to purchase some new clothing? If so, you could include a “Jesus loves you” note. Maybe a coworker is going through a rough time. A card that says, “I’m praying for you” can open the door to sharing God’s love.
Recently, my wife and I were grocery shopping. While going down an aisle we passed by a woman who had tears in her eyes. She quickly wiped her cheek as I glanced at her, and I mentioned this to Trish. We both sensed that God wanted us to speak to the woman. We found her in the next aisle and politely let her know that we were Christians and asked if we could help her in any way. Tears filled her eyes again. She didn’t say anything, but when we asked if we could pray for her, she nodded, and we quietly did so.
God’s love knows no barriers; it cannot be restricted by rules, regulations, or laws. And when we look for ways to show his love, he will give us opportunities to share who he is—the Lord and Savior of all. This is illustrated in the book of Ruth.
Through the lives of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, God shared the gospel in unique ways as he demonstrated and illustrated his love. In Ruth 1:8, 2:20, and 3:10, the word “kindness” is translated in the New International Version. In the Hebrew, the word is hesed, which is a facet of God’s love that is rarely used outside of this book. Hesed is a stubborn, fiercely loyal type of love. It is a love that carries us through our trials and tribulations; it endures even when we cannot see or sense God at work. When Naomi had absolutely nothing, God spoke to her through Ruth. He stubbornly held firm to Naomi through Ruth, then Boaz, and brought Naomi through her hardships to a place where the women of the Bethlehem considered her to be blessed by God at the end of the story.
We can show God’s hesed love to those who come across our paths and to those who are already in our lives. We can reach out to relatives, friends, and strangers alike in tangible ways, through a compassionate word, a thoughtful gift, or a random act of kindness. Demonstrating God’s love is the best way to overcome any negativity or criticism that may be directed toward Christianity. After all, John 3:16 shows us that God demonstrates his love to the world through his actions—and we are called to do the same.
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.