Should Christians parade their religion?
When former Labour leader John Smith died, one reporter wrote: ‘He’s a Christian who never parades his religion’. The question might be put: ‘Should Christians parade their religion?’ But a better question would be: ‘Should Christians display their faith?’ And there is a world of difference between those two questions!
It would be ‘mission impossible’ to write comprehensively about ‘witnessing’ in one article. So I am only looking at a few relevant biblical principles.
First, the Christian should desire to tell everyone about his or her Saviour. This is the foundation of witnessing. God has saved us by his grace; he has brought us into his kingdom and adopted us into his family.
He has lavished all manner of blessings upon us. In the Lord Jesus Christ we have become the most privileged of all his creatures in the entire universe (Psalm 8:3-4). As a result we have true joy, contentment that puzzles the world, peace that passes all understanding, and a certain hope that even death itself cannot destroy.
In view of this, we desire others to know what we know and experience what we are experiencing. The world is perishing. J. C. Ryle said, ‘It may well be questioned whether a man knows the value of the gospel himself if he does not desire to make it known to the entire world’.
John Wesley said, ‘The world is my parish’. Do we see the world as our parish; the area in which we live as our mission field? It is right to support missionary societies, but are we convincing ourselves that others do all the witnessing and we just have an easy ride into heaven?
Second, the Christian has a command to tell everyone about his or her Saviour. We have a Great Commission. Even if the desire is not there, the command is. We are to go forth and proclaim our Saviour.
Our religion is not a secret religion. The gospel of salvation must be made known to all people, whatever their colour, culture or creed.
For those of us who live in cities, there is potential to reach the representatives of many nations. What a challenge and what a spur to witness for our Saviour and Lord!
As faithful ambassadors, we should grasp the fact that we are representatives of Christ, wherever we are (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
Thirdly, the Christian is to be wise in witnessing. It is no easy task. It requires much prayer for God’s help and wisdom. Scripture tells us that it means difficulty, persecution, toil and sacrifice.
We are to be wise and gentle in our dealings with the lost. They are in the dark, not us. There is no quick solution for effective evangelism. It needs time, patience and experience; knowledge of different kinds of people; love and prayer.
We must let people speak, and must listen to them. We must not deal harshly and rashly with them and antagonise them. C. H. Spurgeon said, ‘We are called to be martyrs, not maniacs; we are to be simple-hearted, but we are not to be simpletons’.
Above all, we must never forget that we cannot save people. ‘Salvation is of the Lord’. Let them breathe; do not crowd them in all the time and corner them; it does not work. Ask God for the right approach.
In my own experience of door-to-door witnessing I have learned many lessons. We can’t preach hell as soon as the door is open. We must be friendly and gracious at all times.
In fact, it is advantageous to build a relationship rather than going in with all guns blazing. We are to warm folk to the gospel and not freeze them with our opening words.
Fourthly, we need much common sense. A daily dose of this would do us all good. Do not keep witnessing to someone who keeps mocking and scorning the gospel. It only upsets you and it does not glorify God.
After all, we are told in Scripture not to give ‘pearls’ to ‘swine’. Every word our Saviour spoke was with purpose. Spurgeon said, ‘You are not needlessly to provoke attack upon yourself, or upon the higher truths of the gospel.
‘You are not to judge, but you are not to act without judgement. Count not men to be dogs or pigs; but when they avow themselves such, or by their conduct behave as if they were such, do not put occasions in their way for displaying their evil character’.
When people act in this manner, we must leave the matter and pray. Witnessing will mean lots of tears in our private moments. We are to agonise at the throne of grace over the souls of our unbelieving family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, and the general public, in fervent prayer.
It will take a lot out of us emotionally, but the end result will be beyond words when we see the transforming power of God’s grace in their lives.
Fifthly, we are to be sincere and humble. We are to display our religion, not parade and flaunt it. We are not to brag about how much we do or give. We need to wait upon the Lord. Only he can give results to his own glory.
Scripture teaches us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of this dark world. It’s not that we are to become these, but we already are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). As we live the gospel as we ought, then people will ask the reason for the hope that is within us. So we will have opportunity to speak gladly concerning our Christian faith and the joy of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, we are confronted with a startling warning: if we will not confess our Saviour to the world, why should we expect him to confess us to his Father at the end of the world? Do we really believe that we can live a loose and casual life and just stroll past heaven’s gates?
Our Saviour has bled and died for us; this gospel of grace is our eternal salvation; we are sinners saved by grace — are we ashamed of these things?
Rather, let us be like the apostle Paul, who could boldly proclaim, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16).
There is power in the gospel. We have God-given authority in its proclamation and do not stand alone in our witnessing. God is with us, supporting and strengthening us. We have the indwelling help of the Holy Spirit. We have our Saviour himself pleading on our behalf at his Father’s side. The whole counsel of God is with us.
Here is the confidence and help that we need. The Bible is our manual. The more we read and understand the Word of God, then the more we will live it out in our day-to-day living. And the more we live it out, then the more our witnessing will fall into place.