I’m currently seated at a work bench in Starbucks looking out onto one of the busiest streets in Scotland. It’s the beginning of another day and the footfall must be near to 1k for every single minute that passes.
I can see Harris Tweed and denim, pyroclastic vape columns, queues outside bakeries and homeless guys sleeping on wet mattresses. The range of humanity is beautiful and, often, tragic.
It was a similarly frenetic vista last week as I hurtled out of Glasgow Queen Street train station when I almost literally stumbled into the most tragic interlude in humanity that I think it’s possible to encounter: young people wanting to witness to a jesus that doesn’t exist.
Witnessing Like Paul
I think it was because the two Jehovah’s Witnesses were in their twenties that my attention was arrested ‒ two young people in the prime of their lives passively standing by a stand in the hope of earning a get-out-of-jail card to secure their eternal real estate. But they were being led like a lamb to the slaughter by a species of deceit that distresses our hearts who have seen “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
I know that too often I have walked past Jehovah’s Witnesses with a mild irritation rather than the gut-wrenched tears that Paul often wrote, preached and prayed through (Phil. 3:18).
So I stopped to chat. I only had five minutes before a meeting started that I needed to be at so I had to be prepared for inconvenience. (After all, the meeting I was going to was with someone who knows the real Jesus).
The first thing I said after greeting the two young people was that Jesus was my life. They replied in kind. Awkward. We exchanged comments about our respective faiths and the senior of the two (the other was being trained up to also know jesus) needed me to know that the Trinity was madness and that the Bible was spurious. More awkward.
The Awesome in the Awkward
The main reason that things were getting awkward is because there was part of me that was irritated and up for a fight. How dare they talk about Jesus like that?! But, of course, a few verses earlier, the Bible says,
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The conflict between the flesh and Spirit was definitely occurring on multiple levels in this moment. The nonchalant air from the guys I was speaking to appealed to my flesh ‒ I wanted to prove them wrong! But my spirit that Jesus has made alive felt the weight of tragedy.
So, I knew that I needed, somehow, to introduce the real Jesus to them, not argue about the Trinity or the Bible. I had five minutes after all. So, I told them that if you try to understand everything, including the Trinity, you will never understand. How can one hope to logically “work out God and then be in awe of Him?” John Chrysostom puts it better:
A comprehended god is no god.
The sheer awesomeness of Jesus Christ, the living Lamb that was slain, is not to be worked out. We are not to approach Him with tick boxes that need satisfying or conditions that must be met. A jesus that can be comprehended is not Jesus at all.
Two Leadership Tools for the Streets
This brief, street-pastoring encounter taught me two things that I want to be at the spearhead of my leadership:
- “Agreeing to disagree” is not always good. This is exactly what the senior Jehovah’s Witness said. And wanted ‒ a gentle, unchallenged, comfortable parting of our ways. But the Christian and the Jehovah’s Witness can’t both be living in truth, can they? Or the Christian and the Muslim or the Christian and any other faith-based claim? It’s only Jesus. That’s what He said of Himself ‒ what God says of God. That’s why He died a horrific death. I should have said: “I’m sorry, guys … but I can’t agree to disagree. One of us is deeply deceived and I love you; my witness is not hollow to allow me to agree to disagree and nor should yours be ‒ if it is any faith at all.”
- We have unique spiritual authority to introduce Jesus to people proclaiming Jesus. We say we believe that the same Spirit who smashed Satan at the Cross (Col. 2:15) is residing within our hearts. Literally. We say we believe this and in our deepest heart we do – we’ve been sealed for that day (Eph.1:13). Indeed, the Spirit of God in us (Rom. 8:11) is our unique authority to introduce Jesus to people. His presence is the proof that all this energy that works within us is from God and not man. Therefore, I long, I yearn to be able to take spiritual authority in these street-side encounters with the blind who are leading the blind. I want this conquering energy to flow from the love of the Spirit of God and not an irritation of the flesh. I desire greatly to be able to introduce Christ who is really in me to people who don’t know Him … but think that they do.
When you next encounter someone who is proclaiming a false christ, or someone who announces their belief in no Christ at all, have the confidence of your convictions to ‒ instead of arguing or debating ‒ lead in prayer and in spiritual authority. Then, in a moment of faith, trust that the living, breathing, all-consuming Jesus Christ will emerge in the moment to lovingly confound every spirit of darkness.