Gloria Furman is a wife, mother, writer, photographer, doula, and follower of Jesus Christ wholives in Dubai, where her husband Dave pastors Redeemer Church of Dubai. She is currently writing a book for Crossway on applying the gospel in the mundane, based on her blog Domestic Kingdom.
“Tell me that story again about Jesus when he talked to a woman.” My friend and I were walking around a shopping mall when she asked this question. We were window-shopping, too.
For a minute I was surprised. I remember that it took me weeks to muster the courage (or rather, submit to the Spirit’s leading!) to talk with her about Jesus.
There are several reasons that I had been holding back.
First, we were so different. We couldn’t have been more different, I thought. She was raised in a culture that was completely foreign to mine. She practiced a religion that explicitly rejected mine.
Second, I was intimidated because of my lack of knowledge. I knew that I didn’t know half as much about her religion and culture as I could have. I knew that she knew that, too.
Third, I was ashamed that I had been silent for so long. I knew that said something about my affection for the gospel and then I felt even more shame.
These thoughts preoccupied me and often kept me from witnessing until a wise woman said something to me that was like a bucket of ice water on my soul. “They wear their religion on their sleeves. They expect that you do, too.”
That was a wake-up call for me.
Of course my friends here expect me to talk about my faith in Jesus. They already assume that I am a Christian because of the color of my skin and where I am from. Sometimes this stereotype of Westerners all being Christian works against us—for example, because of this pervasive stereotype, every political figure and every actor they see in a Western movie represents “Christianity.” The faith represents indulgence, gluttony, indiscretion, and immorality to many.
However, in this case the stereotype helped me—she already assumed that I follow Christ; no need to “break the ice” on spiritual talk. I resolved by God’s grace to open my mouth and speak to my friend about Jesus. I resolved by God’s grace to walk in holiness and blow away all of her preconceived ideas of Christians.
Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” Jesus is worthy to receive the reward of his suffering. He is worthy to receive my worship, and the worship of my friends. When I remain silent about Christ, I miss out on the joy and privilege of glorifying God by my words. I deny my friends the opportunity to participate in worshiping the Risen Christ with me.
When I began talking with my friends about Jesus I found out something encouraging on a very practical level. All three of my major hesitations were non-issues.
Each of my friends were delighted and honored to be friends with someone different from them. I was introduced to their family members as, “My Christian friend.” At gatherings some people seemed to get in line to introduce themselves to me, stating that they had heard all about me. The assumption that I would be ostracized because of my ethnicity and religion simply wasn’t the case.
My friends also understood that I would not know everything about their culture. My cursory knowledge of their religion was not a hindrance to them. In all of my conversations with friends about religion, not a single person has asked me to explain something from the perspective of their religion. They all want to know what Christians believe and what the Bible says.
Of course, my working knowledge of their faith is helpful because it helps me to ask them good questions. I continue to learn what I can about what they believe. But any questions I have fielded from the particular people I serve have only ever been about what is contained in the Bible. In this regard, it has actually helped me to grow deeper in my knowledge of God’s word for the good of my own soul and so that I can communicate it effectively to others.
And lastly, the shame that I exhibited over the foolishness of the cross was dealt with on the cross. The gospel says that Jesus’ blood covers my sin—that means his sacrifice covers my sin of feeling ashamed of the gospel. God’s grace is amazing. Jesus said that when he is lifted up from the earth then he will draw all people to himself (John 12:32). The cross is God’s chosen instrument to acquire salvation for his people. Just as Jesus drew me to himself through his death and resurrection, he will draw some of my beloved friends as well. The gospel is God’s power for salvation, and he will wield it by his sovereign grace.
Peter, the apostle who denied Christ three times, remind us of this grace, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).
This is the kind of grace worth sharing with others who have never heard. We should let the grace of God blow us away as we seek to share it with others.
I always marvel at the amazing ways that God works when I recall that particular conversation with my friend. Since then it seems like the only thing we talk about when we get together is Jesus.
Lord willing, someday we’ll kneel at the throne of grace side-by-side, marveling together at God’s grace in Christ for all eternity.