Growing up in an active Christian community in Wisconsin was a blessing. In the Midwest it wasn’t cool to be a Christian. You either were or you weren’t, there was little, if any, middle ground or grey area. I don’t remember ever being picked on or ostracized for my faith, but there was something dependable in knowing who loved Jesus and who still needed an introduction. In that environment I had a choice to either be committed or to walk away. I chose to be committed.
Then as a teenager my family moved to the “Bible Belt” where it seemed everyone was a Christian. It took me a few years to learn that just because people went to church and spoke the jargon didn’t mean they had a personal relationship with Jesus. It was very disconcerting to find that people might call themselves Christian only because it was culturally acceptable. I am embarrassed to admit that it’s often so hard to tell the difference that often I assume someone is a follower of Christ and that he or she knows the plan of salvation, and I don’t bother to make sure.
This weekend I had a humbling wake-up call. In my church in Texas I met someone from Wisconsin who said he grew up in church, but never understood the gospel or that one could have a personal relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until he went away to college that someone shared that information with him. He is now a pastor with an amazing ministry to college students. It took me a couple days to process this. How can we live in a land with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and not reach out to those around us to make sure they’ve heard and understood the good news?
I think of so many persecuted Christians around the world who risk their jobs, families, freedom, and lives to call themselves “Christian,” and I wonder what is wrong with us. This weekend as my family was worshiping publicly and enjoying fellowship with other Christians, twenty-one Christians in Egypt were beheaded. Last week a pastor in Viet Nam was beaten almost to death in the streets. More Christians were imprisoned in Iran. Those are just the ones that made the news and came to my attention.
And I wonder what is keeping me from sharing the gospel with everyone I meet. I wonder if my faith is apparent to everyone who knows me. I don’t want to be beating people over the head with a Bible, but I also don’t ever want someone to come back to me and ask why I neglected to explain the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, to them. I’ve often heard it said that if I’m wrong and there is no Jesus or more than one way to heaven then I’ve lost nothing, but if those who don’t believe are wrong and Jesus is the only way then they’ve lost everything for eternity.
So in case it’s still unclear, let me publicly say:
If you have heard, understood, and still choose not to believe, it’s not up to me to judge or condemn you. I honestly hope for your sake you’ve made the right decision. Jesus said “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). I will continue to love regardless of your choice, and hope you will respect my choice.
If, however, you have never heard or don’t fully understand what I’m talking about when I refer to a personal relationship with Jesus or the gospel of Jesus, it is my hope and prayer that you will find a Bible and read the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–they are short biographies of Jesus’ life, written from four different perspectives, for four different audiences–I’ve even linked them to an online Bible if you want to start right now. Hint: Start with Mark; it’s is the shortest, easiest, and all action.) Then, if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My e-mail is KathrynMcClatchy@gmail.com. I would be honored to provide further answers or information to contact someone in your area.