Love comes first

A few years ago, some church friends and I went to the mall to share the Gospel. When we arrived at the mall, a fear of evangelism crept up inside me. But I felt that I couldn’t run away scared or make excuses to leave because, well, I wasn’t ready to be that honest about my fear yet. So I pressed on, pushed my fears down, and moved forward. Upon entering the mall, I could tell that the other people I was with also felt afraid. All the more reason for me to be the “confident” one.

As we approached a woman sitting with a few others on a bench, I rehearsed what I would say in my head. “Hi, we were wondering if you wanted to know anything about Jesus?” I asked. She looked surprised that I would say anything at all to her. “No”, she said softly.

“Ok, thank you. Have a nice day,” I replied. And we continued on.

Each encounter with people at the mall that day looked something like this first conversation. A simple question, followed by a simple answer.  

No.  

No one wanted to know anything about Jesus, at least, not from me that day.

I often reflect on the awkwardness I felt during this time in my life four years ago. But even more so, how unfortunate it is to do something for the wrong reasons, regardless of the outcome.

But I was recently reminded that the best, most holy thing that could fuel us to share the Gospel isn’t fear but love.

 

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died..” 2 Corinthians 5:15a

 

What fueled me during this time of evangelism wasn’t love for the people who might receive Jesus, it was fear. I was afraid of saying no to something I was “supposed” to do. It wasn’t a healthy reverence of the holiness of God that controlled me, it was an unhealthy fear of man. At the time I was part of an amazing church community, but the pressure to constantly share the Gospel was unforgivingly great. Looking back, I felt like there was no room for me to be honest about my social anxiety fear or my need for the approval of man. My obedience was there, but my heart was weary because of the fear that fueled it.

What happens when the wrong things compel us? On the outside, we may seem like shining examples of Jesus followers. But on the inside, I believe we slowly die and soon, we may not be able to fake it anymore. One day we may find ourselves so weary from faking it, that we end up faithless. Not because God isn’t good, but because we’ve forgotten that he is good enough to love us in our shortcomings. The reality about God’s goodness is that it doesn’t change. We may see it in the best moments of our lives, and completely miss it when hardship or the stickier things in life afflict us. What we miss is that God’s goodness is the same in the trenches of the reality of our humanness and in the triumphs. He is always with us and for us; that is what makes him good.

When I remind myself that God is good, it’s like I am pouring truth into the cracks of my identity that fear created. And today, I can say that what does compel me is love. It compels me because, instead of running from my fears, I stop and turn around to face them. I have the courage to do this because I choose to believe that God is good. Even when people around me demand an obedience to their expectation of what Christians (me) should be like, I choose to not let their opinion or approval of me guide my decisions. Instead, I turn to Jesus, the image of the invisible God, and he and I walk together to face my fears. He reminds me that I am accepted and loved as I am, and gently teaches me how to trust him with all things. This is how he changes us, by his love and friendship. Because his love changes me, I become more like him- more love, less fear.

When I go out to malls, or anywhere to share Jesus, I remember that the God of love is with me. I can allow his love to control me, not my fear. I remember that He is always with us and for us; that’s what makes him good.

Written by: Iman Hall

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