Sunday, April 15, 2012

Genie in a Bottle

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”- Romans 1:16

I just had a friend return from a Mission trip to a foreign land. He and the team had a phenomenal time sharing their faith with a needy people. Mission trips are awesome opportunities for us to “go.” But so many of us return from these trips only to retreat back into our “private” faith. Kind of like a Genie in a bottle, our faith retreats back into the bottle of our souls, virtually worthless to those around us. Someone once said, “Faith isn't faith unless we’re willing to give it away.” In other words, if it’s genuine faith, we aren't ashamed to share it.

It seems we’re a lot more comfortable sharing our faith with people we don't know in a land where we don't live. But we’re the most effective in familiar surroundings around those with whom we’ve built a relationship. Why are we hesitant to share our faith with our families and in our neighborhoods? Why don't we share with those we know the best?

Those we know well have seen our worst. When we’re with strangers, they know nothing of our faults. But our families know full well that we have “feet of clay.” They know our past. Many times, we conclude that our faith is disqualified because of our past mistakes. Though He was sinless, Jesus struggled with His family too.

It’s interesting that when Jesus left home to begin His ministry, His family apparently didn't like the idea. According to Mark 3:21, they said He was “out of His mind,” and some of them tried to “take charge of Him” and bring Him home. Matthew 12: 46-50 indicates that He refused to talk to His mother and brothers when they tracked Him down and tried to see him. And John 7:5 says, “Even His own brothers did not believe Him.”

The gospels don't say how long the rift with the family lasted. But there must have been reconciliation at some point, because Acts 1:14 says that Mary and all four brothers later joined the disciples in the Upper room after Jesus departed. These brothers were unbelievers six months earlier, but now believed.

Jesus was seemingly tough on His loved ones because He knew that His mission was even more important than pleasing His family.

If we base our faith on a popularity contest, we lose every time. Paul said in Galatians 1:10 that we can't be people-pleasers and God-pleasers at the same time. When we want everyone to like us, our faith goes back in the bottle and the cork is pushed in tightly. Of course, we’re called to love everyone. So sharing our faith isn't an excuse to be rude. But Jesus certainly wasn’t rude. He was just focused. He was convicted. He was dependent on His Father.

And that’s what threatens people the most about our faith. Most people don't have any conviction. So, when you share your faith, it naturally bothers them. You are reminding them that they have a void in their hearts that only Jesus can fill. That’s why the Tim Tebow’s and Bubba Watson’s are given a hard time.

So, have an absolute blast on the Mission trips, but keep on “going” when you come hme. Keep that Genie called faith out of the bottle. Be kind and respectful, but keep sharing your faith with your neighbors and family.

Who knows? In six months, they may become your brothers and sisters in the faith.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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