A few weeks ago I spent several days in a city known for its extreme tolerance, a place where the outrageous isn’t really all that outrageous. After a week of startling observations, I began to wonder what the Gospel looks like in a place where every appetite can find what it craves. I asked God how anyone lives for Jesus there, when success is the norm and wealth abounds, where sex is glorified, and youth and beauty are worshiped. How do you share about the need for a Savior when people seemingly have everything they need or want, and then some?
How do you share about the need for a Savior when people seemingly have everything they need or want, and then some?
Then on my last day there, I met Kris. He picked me up curbside at 6:00A to take me to the airport and started the drive by asking how I liked the city. I didn’t want to offend him, but I couldn’t very well tell him that I wasn’t all that impressed. Instead I graciously offered, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I’m not sure I’d want to live here.” Kris was intrigued by my answer and began prodding me to explain.
I was afraid to explain it to him. The last thing I wanted was a debate I wasn’t prepared or awake enough for. Or worse, for him to think I was some ignorant, intolerant Christian nut.
But he really wanted to know the reason behind my safe and boring answer, so I cautiously began to explain my experiences and the things I had witnessed.
And he laughed. Not at me, but at my humorous retelling of my week. Sensing my embarrassment, he graciously volunteered, “If you think that’s crazy,” and proceeded to tell me two stories of recent experiences he had that topped the ones I shared. Then when we were both laughing, he did what I had been afraid to do: he told me he was a Christian.
Then when we were both laughing, he did what I had been afraid to do: he told me he was a Christian.
Our conversation took on a completely new tone. Suddenly, I stopped worrying about what this stranger thought of me and how I might sound. I knew that God was answering my question from the day before. I was about to find out what it looks like to be a Christian in a city that is leading the way in cultural tolerance and Christian intolerance.
His answer was surprisingly simple. It was also hard: he doesn’t talk about Jesus; he lives like Jesus. He shared with me about the opportunities God reveals to him where he can extend kindness to someone who has nothing to give him in return: buying a homeless man dinner and a beer, changing the tire for someone on the side of the road whose car isn’t worth what he makes in a week. Kris makes a conscious decision to live in a way that’s different. “Usually you don’t need words to do that,” he said.
What struck me in Kris’ testimony was how bold and sure was with his faith. I had expected the opposite. But instead, he told me that to be a Christian you cannot be in the middle. Either you cling to the cross and live for God, or you quickly get swept up and away in a sea of post-modern tolerance and appetites.
But instead, he told me that to be a Christian you cannot be in the middle.
He told me that at one point he was making only $2,000 a month in a city where the average single-bedroom apartment easily goes for $3,000. For a long time, he was focused on getting ahead, on saving money, on moving up and acquiring nice things, but he soon grew weary of it. Instead of drowning in the times, Kris changed his focus to Jesus. He began living on trust in God and gave what he could not spare.
The first year was really hard, but somehow God provided. The next year Kris continued to give what he could not spare, and God doubled his salary. He now makes over four times a month what he first made when he turned from the pursuit of money to the pursuit of a life lived for Jesus. His lavish generosity and faith were met, matched and outmatched by an extravagant God. But for Kris the point wasn’t how much money he makes now; the point is still Jesus.
Faith isn’t lived out on Facebook with posts and memes. Faith isn’t confessed in our small groups or at church. Faith isn’t shared when we’re sure people are going to like what we have to say. Whether doing missionary work in Berlin or cutting the grass for the neighbor who has trouble getting around, our faith is lived out among people who have nothing to offer us in places that make us uncomfortable at inopportune times. Jesus spent little time in the temple, but He did go where people needed Him.
…our faith is lived out among people who have nothing to offer us in places that make us uncomfortable at inopportune times.
Weeks later and I am still in awe not just of Kris’ testimony, not just of his radical obedience to Jesus, but in awe of God. An unbelievably personal, undeniably attentive God heard me. Mine wasn’t a lofty inquiry. I wasn’t really seeking His guidance or His direction. I was simply curious and asked Him a question.
And He answered through a humble and gracious immigrant Über driver, a man quietly looking for opportunities to show kindness and extend the love of Jesus with the hope that someone will notice something different in him.