Evangelization scares me.
It seems each day brings a new opening, a new window for Christ’s perfect love. It happens at birthday parties, in social media venues, even when I’m walking to the mailbox. My heart rushes in, colors blazing, imagining a homeschooling Joan of Arc who is Made For This.
But the rest of me? My stomach’s a hamster on overdrive. Cold sweat shouts “Run away! Run away!” My mouth goes dry. I fumble my words. And I limp home licking a variety of imaginary wounds.
The ordeal leaves me utterly spent, not to mention in need of a glass of wine.
What if I make a fool of myself?
What if I say something wrong?
What if I drive someone farther from the truth?
What if I lose a friend?
Anxiety and pride are powerful bedfellows. They censure me, giving credence to a whispered lie of powerless words and wasted efforts. Most of the time I just say nothing, hoping someone else will take my place.
Until I remember Sydney Carton.
By all accounts, Sydney Carton is a waste of a brilliant mind: a drunkard convinced of his worthlessness. Carton squanders his talent as an assistant to Stryver, the opportunistic lawyer who thrives on Carton’s powers of observation and research abilities. Those who know Carton scorn him. And Carton detests himself, as well: “I am a disappointed drudge,” he says. “I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.”
But Carton is the hero of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. In the novel’s final hours, Carton goes before the guillotine to spare the life of Lucie, the woman he loves, and to save the life of her father, her husband, and her daughter, too. His final words evince a transformation, an outpouring of Christ’s love: “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far greater rest that I go to than I have ever known”.
In this sacrificial act, Carton embodies John 15:13: “What greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends?” (New International Version). He embraces martyrdom, ensuring that those he loves have “peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy” lives.
Carton’s bravery strengthens my resolve. His example reminds me that I need not fear death, neither the end of life for the body, nor the end of pride for the soul. When I pass up the opportunity to offer a gentle correction, a clarification, or a statement of the truths of our faith, I pass up the opportunity to lay down my life for my friends. And what, then, am I saying about true Christian charity? That it requires my convenience? That it must meet my own level of comfort?
That it revolves around me?
It’s not about me. It never has been. If a man who spends nearly three-quarters of a Dickens novel stumbling through the streets of London with a physical and spiritual hangover can drag himself from the gutter, embrace public execution, and spare the life of a woman who never returned his love (and the life of the man she married instead of him), surely I can stand firm in the face of my fears and speak the truth of Christ.
John 15 continues: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (New International Version, John 15:16)
How do you approach evangelization? What do you ask of him? Let’s learn from one another as sisters in Christ, because we were made for this.
Copyright 2016 Ginny Kochis