It’s illumination, not explanation, that truly convinces people.
Many years ago, whether he realized it or not, this is what Marty was doing with me. He was illuminating.
He was not trying to position himself above the arguments, as if he had a God’s eye view. He was speaking out of his own experience. And he was honoring, (even if he didn’t agree) my experience.
I am working at doing the same. As I share Jesus’ love, I try to remind myself that the I’m not called to be a lawyer, just a witness to what he has done. And there is a big difference. A lawyer creates the arguments and steers the discussion in a direction consistent with his agenda. A witness speaks on the subject at hand, speaks out of his own life experience: what he has seen, heard, and felt.
And the thing that I know is that someone convinced by a witness is truly convinced. All those years with people acting like lawyers, with me acting like a lawyer and debating them. At the end of the day, even when the things said by a lawyer sound right, there is still this little doubt in the back of our brain. “These guys are professional convincers. Perhaps I’ve just been manipulated.”
God is a god who turns things upside down and reverses them. He is a God who flips power dynamics topsy turvy and turns our expectations backwards on themselves.
Our expectation is that it is the person we are speaking to who benefits in these relationships. We have all this knowledge, and we pour it into them, and then they are made like us.
It’s not untrue that a person learning about Jesus benefits. What is untrue is that the person pouring into the learner is passive and unchanged.
Seeing through the eyes of someone truly seeing Jesus for the first time is such an awesome thing. It brings us back to that child-like sense of wonder. It reminds us of who we are in him. Even if I didn’t know what was going on, I think I’d be able to figure out when people I know well are talking about Christ to people who don’t know him. I imagine they’d say the same thing about me.
There is a picture here, I think.
We have this God who pours into us. And there are ways that we want to assert that he is unchanging; that he is unchanged by this process of changing us. It’s much like when kids first learn that their actions and thoughts can hurt their parents. There is an element of insecurity. A moment of fear.
But if the parent (whether it be God or an earthly parent) was not changeable, emotionally invested in the experience, could we feel loved and cared for?
God is desperate for us. He is emotionally wrapped up in the process. In this way he is changeable… and I thank God for that.