My new friend was clearly uncomfortable. We were getting to know each other whilst watching the kids play. However, I had just told her I was a Christian, and her face told me she did not consider that to be a good thing. It was clearly not something she wanted me to elaborate on. So I didn’t. I kept the conversation skipping along and moved to more socially acceptable topics – “Nice weather we’ve been having, hey?” I was feeling the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel.
This of course is not a new temptation. The apostle Paul had recognised that the gospel message is seen as foolish by the world, long before the comments section on the internet had been invented. Paul writes: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
Paul’s preaching received a wide variety of responses. In Acts 17 and 18 alone we see people being jealous, hostile, contemptuous and abusive. But in each town Paul visited we also read of people believing his message and being added to God’s family through the power of the gospel. Paul persisted in preaching the gospel despite the pressure to keep quiet.
Later Paul would write to the Roman Church “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (Rom 1:16). He stood firm against the temptation to keep quiet, the temptation to preach a message that was easier to hear. Paul resisted the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel.
How are we fighting against the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel? What do we do when we read the anonymous comments slamming Christians and our beliefs? What can you do when your friend rolls their eyes or your neighbour stares back at you awkwardly when you mention your faith?
Paul wants us to remember the gospel is the power of God for salvation. One day Jesus will return to establish his eternal kingdom on earth. Jesus is the rightful ruler of everyone and everything. The death and resurrection of Jesus has changed the world – for the better, forever. It’s the kind of news that you constantly bump up your Facebook feed, not hide away in a diary! The message that Jesus is the risen Lord is the only message that will bring hope, peace and restoration to our world. Our lives need to be grounded in this reality. If we think any less of the gospel, we lose the reason for sharing it in the first place.
I recognised the temptation to be ashamed; to build our friendship by only talking about family and work and football. So I prayed and asked God to change my friend’s heart and to strengthen mine. I also asked others to pray for us both. I reminded myself of the truth and power of the gospel. And I refused to give in. My friend dearly needed to hear the gospel.
Over the months as we met regularly to watch the kids play I continued to share my life and faith in various ways. I told her how much the church helped my family when my Dad was dying, how I was praying about finding a job, how much I loved Bible College and how I worked through issues of forgiveness because Jesus had forgiven me. I also listened to her share her life. And wherever possible I showed kindness. And do you know what? Those looks of “Oh, please not religion” soon changed.
Eventually I was able to share with her the reason I’m a Christian and give her a Bible. As our friendship grew I was able to share with her the gospel message and tell her how important it is for her to think about it. I am still praying for my friend. We live in different places now, but I am asking God to bring into her life a Christian who is not ashamed of the gospel. A Christian who will not only share lives but share the gospel. Could you be the answer to that prayer?
Thoughts to ponder:
- What is “the message of the cross”?
- In what ways are you being tempted to be ashamed of the gospel?
- Why was Paul not ashamed of the gospel?
- Can you think of three things that will help you be unashamed of the gospel?
- How can you share the gospel with the people around you?