Are we really being used to change people?
—Billy Graham (Christianity Today Online, "A Greater Vision," 10/24/06)
Billy Graham, modern Evangelicalism's elder statesman, poses a legitimate question. Since that article debuted a month ago, the question's tugged at my heart.
We talk about the Kingdom of God a lot in Evangelical circles, but sometimes I feel we're missing the point. In some ways, we live out the Faith like the kid who has a celebrity run-in with Brad Pitt and thereafter insists to awed friends that he's now a lifelong pal. A simple phone call to Mr. Pitt would dispel all pretenses, but it sounds good. And who's got that phone number lying around anyway?
Any blogger worth his or her salt will instantly chime in and remind us that "we" don't change anyone, God does. No arguments there. But God decided to work His will through earthen vessels. Jesus' prayer that God would raise up laborers to go into the fields wasn't a call for the angels to get off their duffs.
As we go into the Christmas season, hundreds of opportunities will come for us to answer Graham's question in the affirmative. If we keep it in mind through every daily personal interaction, how can we not begin living out a transforming faith?
But it doesn't come naturally. We need to work at viewing every interaction we have with other people as an opportunity for the Kingdom or against it. At a time of the year when jerkdom abounds, swallowing our inner jerk after standing in line for a half hour to return a misbought gift would go far in showing the poor person on the opposite side of the counter that our lives run counter to the ways of the world. If I had a dime for every Ichthus-bumper-stickered car driven by some guy who just verbally assaulted a pony-tailed teen girl working in the least-desired spot in the store, I'd be well on the way to Warren Buffet-dom.
Christmas naturally opens people to Christ. Does your server at the restaurant know the Lord? How can you serve him while he's serving you? Or how about watching the kids for the single mom you know so she can shop for her kids? Offer to drive an elderly person to the mall so she can shop, too. And while you're at it, buy her lunch.
The possibilities are endless if your heart inclines to the sheep not yet in Christ's fold.