Written by: Hannah Leung (Photo by: Zann Lee)
How I hid away the gospel
“Evangelism” is a peculiar word — it is such a big part of the Christian faith, but we avoid talking about it, much less evangelise. It is typically associated with passion, conviction, and a radical love for Jesus, yet disassociated with my life.
In July 2015, my heart was brimming with expectancy as I attended a church camp — I was excited to soak up the atmosphere of being around a spiritually hungry congregation. I had also asked God to show me His face, and was confident that He would reveal more of Himself to me during camp.
It, therefore, did not come as much of a surprise when a leader approached me on the second night of camp and wanted to pray for me.
The surprise only came when she started praying.
As she muttered the first few sentences, the faces of many people of different ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and languages flashed through my mind, as if flipping through a book of portraiture. I remember feeling shocked and confused at the same time, and still profoundly moved. At the end of this “flip book” experience, a gentle whisper nudged my heart, “If you love me, do you love these people too?”
It reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:40 (NIV): “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Growing up, I had always perceived evangelism as a “gift” that I did not have. While I admired friends who actively shared the gospel with their classmates and my leaders who were passionate about sharing their faith with strangers, evangelism was never something I could see myself doing.
I had been quick to push away the thought of evangelism in my life, even though I knew that there was a need for the gospel to be shared to a lost and broken world. Whenever the Great Commission was brought up on the pulpit, a voice at the back of my head would say, “Yeah yeah, but someone else will do it.”
I simply did not want to be the willing agent. It was too uncomfortable. I avoided the difficult questions my friends would ask about Christianity, especially those which I knew I had no answers to. Furthermore, I did not want to come across as intrusive or pushy.
This went on till I embarked on a bible study with a few friends on the book of Philippians in the first quarter of this year. It was my first time learning about Paul and his love for the gospel, and I was interested to learn more about who he was.
What baffled me was his radical attitude towards the salvation of others: out of deep anguish, he was willing to lose his salvation in order that non-believing Jews could know Christ (Romans 9:1-4a). He was so desperate for Jesus to be revealed to his brothers that he would exchange his salvation for theirs; he was prepared to lose an eternity in Heaven with Jesus for an eternity in hell!
However, while Paul was lamenting his sorrow over the unbelievers, Paul also freely expressed the joy he found in Christ. As I dwelt on his letter to the Philippi church and pondered over the absurdity of being sorrowful and joyful all at the same time, it hit me that the goodness of the gospel produces two opposing emotive responses in us.
On one hand, a joy would burst forth. The gospel has enabled us to walk freely in truth and commune with the very One whom we call Creator. The restorative and reconciliatory work of the cross penetrated the fabric of time and redeemed a people that was doomed for all eternity. Not only will we spend our forever with the perfect Father, but we can fellowship with Him today. As the sweet presence of God is no longer hidden behind a veil, we have so many reasons to celebrate!
On the other hand, just as Paul grieved for the salvation of the Jews, the sheer goodness of the gospel should cause our hearts to ache for those who cannot rejoice like we can. They live without experiencing the peace and joy found only in Christ — a peace and joy that does not ebb according to the circumstance. Moreover, in light of eternity, the reality of anyone being found outside the gates of heaven should cause our hearts to grieve.
As I continue to dive deeper into knowing the Gospel, my heart increasingly feels the tension between the joy and the sorrow of salvation. This tension reminds me (with great discomfort) that evangelism is not a gift, but a lifestyle.
Experiencing the gospel in a new way has made me uncomfortable with finding comfort in “Idle Christianity.” When someone delivers good news, would I not share it readily with my friends? Is the Gospel not the Good News? I no longer want to be a lit lamp that is conveniently hidden under a bed. I hope to be on stand, letting the light of the Gospel in me shine for others to see. I want to be an unashamed follower of Jesus Christ.
The whisper from heaven — “If you love me, do you love these people too?”— also revealed to me that if I profess to love God, then it would overflow into evangelism. When you love something, would you not talk about it?
My sister reminds me regularly she does not understand the sociological theories I constantly rattle on excitedly about to her. As a sociology major, I cannot help but talk about the things I genuinely love! In the same way, when we love God and learn something new about God, we simply ought to share it with someone.
As I continue to walk this journey of faith with Jesus, I am also learning what it means to enable my intimacy with Him to overflow into an outward expression that the world can see. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we start to take on the habits, attitudes, and values of the people we love and spend much time with.
In the same way, as we journey closely with Jesus, we will naturally exhibit His loving and graceful nature. My prayer is that as we let the melodies of our lives be written by God, the tune of His heart will be heard so clearly by the family and friends around us. When given the opportunity to testify of our faith, may we be so caught up in loving Jesus that, like a cup that overflows, we will be ready to share about the hope that we have.