Q I often wonder if I’m a genuine Christian because I’m not actively sharing my faith. My attempts at outreach or evangelism seem phony and inappropriate. What should I do?
A If you’re trying to talk to someone about your faith because you feel pressured to or because of some misconception about what a genuine Christian is, your attempts will be phony and inappropriate.
In our cultural context today, relationships are the most fertile ground for the gospel. The days of showing up and knocking on people’s doors with a “plan for their life” are over. Think of the last time a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon knocked on your door. What was your reaction? Exactly.
Now think of the last time someone shared with you a favorite recipe or a story about how his child just learned to ride a bike or about a great movie she just watched—no doubt it was natural and unrehearsed. Sharing a story about God can and should be just like that.
A true Christian witness doesn’t need to think about saying the right thing or inserting the right verse because his or her life is focused on following Jesus and living out the kingdom of God. This kind of authentic faith speaks for itself.
Develop friendships with people outside of your Christian circle—people you meet at the bookstore, a favorite restaurant, or at the office. Invite a casual acquaintance over for dinner. Offer to help him with a house project. Get to know her over coffee. Seek such a person out as a friend rather than as a target, and your words and life will be seen and heard differently.
In this context faith issues can become a natural part of your conversations, rather than a forced and sudden presentation. Relax and entrust the whole thing to God. As you do, you’ll find that God has a way of arriving in unsurprising ways and places.
Rev. Bryan Berghoef is pastor of Watershed Church, a Christian Reformed church plant in Traverse City, Mich.
Q At the checkout in a store I pointed out to the cashier that I had been given too much change, and as a result she was fired from her job. Now I am reluctant to point out errors in my favor. Am I right to keep silent?
A Are you sure that what you said was the sole cause of the cashier’s being fired? Might it have been the final straw in a series of errors? In any case, you cannot keep silent in situations when you realize that an error is in your favor, even if your intent is to protect an employee.
But point out errors in a way that is charitable and does not cause a commotion or attract the attention of a manager. If you discover an error after leaving a cashier’s work station and you are still on the premises, you must return, even if it means getting back in line to do so. It is simply unacceptable to do otherwise; depending on the precise circumstances, it can qualify as a form of theft.
If you suspect there might be an error in your favor but don’t actually check to make sure, that is also wrong. As Aristotle taught us, willful ignorance cannot spare us from bearing responsibility for wrongdoing.
Dr. Gregory Mellema is a philosophy professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q Because of the increase in identity theft, terrorism, and natural disasters, some have suggested having our social insurance or social security number imprinted on our bodies. Should I say no to that in view of Revelation 13:16-17, regarding the “mark of the beast”?
A While most of us would probably applaud efforts to monitor mad cow disease, some Christian farmers appealed to this passage when they refused to place computer chips in their cattle to assist in tracking this disease.
While most of us probably can’t imagine a legitimate reason for doing something similar to humans, such proposals should be decided on their own merits, not by an appeal to this text.
A note in the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan 2006, p. 2136) indicates that “the mark of the beast apparently symbolized allegiance to the demands of emperor worship. In the final days of the antichrist it will be the ultimate test of loyalty.”
Christians should say no to any “mark” that indicates that our primary allegiance is to someone or something other than our Savior.
—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.