The Way: A Real Life Journey: STEP 4: USE WORDS
“A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why should it exhaust the soil?’” (Luke 13:6-7).
Florence was lying on her death bed. She’d been a faithful wife, devoted mother, and finally, a loving grandmother to my wife. And for some reason that tortured her conscience in secret, she had confided in my wife years ago that she thought she was going to hell.
Her son, my father-in-law, is a good man, but an agnostic.
So there I was at her death bed. It’s not one of those times you want to rock the boat. That voice in my head told me, “Let her die in quiet. Don’t risk conflict with your father-in-law. Don’t risk upsetting her.” But I knew I had to ignore that voice.
I leaned in close and said, “Jesus was crucified with two thieves. One rejected him. The other said ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He hadn’t done much good throughout his life. But that’s all it took for Jesus to say ‘This day you will be with me in paradise.’ Florence, that can be you. You just have to receive the mercy of Jesus.” The following day she was received into the Catholic Church, and the day after that she went home to our Lord.
What if I hadn’t said the uncomfortable? What if her Catholic grandkids and daughter-in-law hadn’t prayed by her bedside, and more importantly, shown her the love of Jesus for so many years? What if that priest hadn’t decided to drop in to the room of a non-Catholic the day after I shared the story of the good thief?
In some mysterious way, God has made the eternal destiny of others contingent on our response to his call to be witnesses, each in our own way.
We presume that the world will be offended whenever we share the love of God. And sometimes people are. But more often than not, we project our discomforts on others who wouldn’t mind us sharing about our faith any more than they’d mind us sharing about our favorite football team.
And if they knew the depth of our faith, frankly, they might be offended if we didn’t share it! The famous comedian and atheist Penn Jillette, reflecting on his respect for Christians who have tried to convert him said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not evangelize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it’s best not to speak. If we over-talk we might scare some people away. But there are also times in our lives when we’re called upon to speak up, to do something, and to let our faith “bear fruit.”
Pray for opportunities to share your faith. Pray for the right words to say. Then when the opportunity arises, just be yourself. It might be as deep as a death bed conversation. It might be as simple as a “God bless you” at the checkout counter.
There’s an overused saying that we should preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. Words are often necessary. Use them.