Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Silent Evangelization

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.
- 1 Peter 3:15-16
What a beautiful and perfect description of evangelization. As Christians we are called to evangelize--to share and pass on our faith. However, the word 'evangelize' puts a lot of people off. We have images of people who stand on street corners with signs strapped to their bodies, bellowing out the Good News and imploring us to repent and accept Jesus and be saved. Or ministers on TV who enthusiastically tell us how much Jesus loves us. Or those smiling, friendly young people who knock on our doors and want to preach on our very doorsteps. Many of us try to avoid people like that. and avoid evangelizing because we don't want others to think of us like that either.

But evangelizing in big and flashy ways is not the only way to do it. Indeed, I believe the only people who really respond to those methods are people who have already accepted Jesus, who already believe in the message being preached. And it is far more important for us to reach those who have not yet accepted Jesus. To do that, we don't need to shout, we don't need to march through the streets singing. We don't need to start every conversation with, "Do you have Jesus in your life?" Instead, we should simply live our lives the way we are called to: honestly and joyfully. If we truly live out our faith, acting as Christ asks us to act, we are evangelizing through our every word and deed. We marry and build families. We raise our children to be caring. We earn an honest living. We attend church. We give to the poor. We give all our problems to God, and rest in His peace.

What do you think happens when others see us living our lives this way? When we are surrounded by a loving family. When we take pride in our work. When we continue to smile even though we are suffering hardships. Other people see all this, and they think, "What do these people have that I don't? And how can I get it?" Eventually your 'silent evangelization' will get through to them, and they will begin their search for the Truth. When they come to you for answers, be ready and willing to share your story and your faith. This is what Peter is telling us in this passage. "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." And when we evangelize through our actions rather than our words, we can't help but do it "with gentleness and reverence."

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