I had coffee with a friend this morning and, in between his successful attempts to wind me up, we had some good chats about Christianity in Northern Ireland.
I think the problem is that people don’t really know what it means to evangelise. I think they forget that it’s a relational thing, and that just handing out gospel tracts to people on the street isn’t any where near enough, and I think they forget that Jesus truly invested time in people and didn’t just spend five minutes telling them how great God was and then forget about them. It’s all well and good to pray for the people who you chat with, but Jesus didn’t encourage people to follow Him by having a nice chat with them, not even coming close to scratching the surface, and then going off on His own and praying for them.
I remember when I was fifteen and I went to a youth event called Mannafest. They’d talk about how broken Northern Ireland was because of the troubles, because of all the bitterness that was festering within the country ever since the 1980s. Northern Ireland, like every other country in the world that calls itself “Christian” (I still have no idea what a “Christian country” is), has this great ability to constantly talk about all it’s problems rather than just loving people. We spend so much money on events like Mannafest and Summer Madness, where we get together as Christians to listen to people tell us about all our flaws and how much we need to change, rather than just getting together in our own communities on a daily basis and loving each other and the people who don’t share our beliefs. That’s the problem; that we don’t love, we just talk.
It’s not easy to be a Christian in Northern Ireland, that’s for sure, not the sort of Christian who chooses to get up every day and truly die to themselves and really love people. It’s almost cool to be a Christian here, to hold doors open for old people and turn up to church every Sunday, because that’s what being a real Christian is, right?
I didn’t become a Christian because someone handed me a gospel tract on the street, and none of the people who I know who became Christians during my four years in Stirling made that choice because of a chance meeting with a member of the CU that lasted for all of five minutes. We became Christians because people showed us love, because they invested time in us. Sometimes we’ll invest more than time, we’ll invest money and we’ll miss out on sleep and we’ll have to move things around a little bit, but this life isn’t about us.
Following Christ isn’t about me getting what I want; it’s about doing everything for the glory of God.
Most of all, I fear for those who are lukewarm. Not to get all preachy on you, but Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV) says “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” God would prefer us to not believe at all than to be in the middle, He would prefer to have one person whose heart truly burned with passion for him than a hundred who did nothing about their faith other than say “Oh, yeah, I believe in God” whenever someone asked them if they were “religious” (a term I’m not a fan of). I fear for the people in this country who think that is enough. Jesus didn’t die the most painful death known to man so we could be comfortable in the fact that we believe He existed, He died so we wouldn’t be alone when we chose to take up our cross and follow Him, He died so we could be free and safe in Him, so we could step our of comfort zones and know we didn’t have to be afraid.
I can’t imagine how much it breaks Jesus’ heart to think about how He did that, how He suffered the most excruciating pain when He could have just clicked His fingers and have all of us know exactly who He was, how He showed us that much love, an insane, crazy love, and then watch as we completely take it for granted.
I don’t know where I’ll be six months from now. Currently, I’d love to be back in Scotland, but if my passion for this topic grows and God tells me it’s time to start calling Northern Ireland home again, I want to do that.