First impressions leave a distinct mark. MJ was collected, intelligent, played the guitar, and sang like Sarah McLachlan. It seemed her whole life was ahead of her with the best yet to come.
Yet, things are not always as they appear. The truth is, she couldn’t get through a single day without getting high or drunk or contemplating if she should end it all. This was really hard for me to accept, but that was the story she shared the day we baptized her in the heart of NYC a little over a year ago.
Sharing Jesus to a hurting and broken world can sound almost like a cliché as we sip our espresso at Starbucks while listening to the latest Hillsong United soundtrack exhorting us to “Go out upon the waters.” We haven’t been anywhere near the shore for while, and so walking on the waters might be a bit of a stretch.
The truth is, we probably agonize more over what specialty drink we should buy than over the faces of lost people across the street or in the Amazon. Don’t worry, I promise not to rant or give a lecture about the dangers of modern luxuries. I watch more TV than most pastors do or should do and I really like gourmet coffee. I lack the moral authority to judge anyone. Instead, I come alongside you as a friend on the journey, also desiring to love like Jesus in the age of avocado. Toast and Jamba Juice.
How do we share Jesus to a hurting and broken world in a way that does not seem plastic, but genuine?
First, we need to recognize that spiritual discernment and gospel witness are inseparable.
Yes, things are not always as they appear. People need the Lord. It just doesn’t seem like it at the moment, because that is precisely the scheme of the evil one. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis shares a profound insight into the way the kingdom of darkness operates to conceal the work of evangelism from unbelievers: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
In essence, the enemy’s best work is done not by engaging the world in sin and temptation, but by concealing the light of Christ! This is why, without growing in our spiritual discernment, like deer caught in a headlight, we’ll always be engulfed in a spiritual fog. It then seems as if our gospel witness isn’t really necessary, and those eating avocado toast and drinking Jamba Juice are just fine without Jesus.
This malaise is not food coma, but rather a spiritual coma that aims to put our witness to rest. We must begin to recognize this as spiritual resistance and combat it with prayer.
Second, we need to recognize that “mugglization” is the greatest danger to our evangelization.
J.K Rowling, of the Harry Potter franchise fame, calls a “muggle” a non-magical human possessing the significance in this universe of a pig or a cow. Yet in the Book of Ephesians, Paul exhorts us to recognize the magnificent hope we have been given and the glorious inheritance we have received in Christ.
There is a subtle, yet pervasive narrative influencing the Church today, and it is directly responsible for the malaise that often hinders our witness. This demonic scheme is to “mugglize” the Church and lead us to forget just how amazing the gospel is.
Returning to MJ, she came to Christ through our campus ministry at NYU. The day she prayed to invite Christ into her life, she also went cold turkey from drugs. She said that, oddly, she felt no pull towards them anymore. However, the real kicker wouldn’t come until a few months later when our community was reminded once again of the all-surpassing greatness of the gospel in Christ!
The topic of heaven came up in a Bible study, and MJ almost died of happiness, screaming, “Do you mean to say that I get to be with Jesus not just for this life, but forever? That is crazy!”
She squealed too many times to count and began to praise God. MJ was an international student from Japan and Christianity was still very new to her. It had never dawned on us that she may not have heard of heaven! What most of us took for granted from Sunday school made her laugh and cry at the same time.
I can’t imagine what MJ was going through before she met Christ. I’m learning that sharing Jesus to a hurting and broken world isn’t plastic at all. There is nothing plastic about MJ’s life and the lives of others like her. If anything, it is us who are plastic and the ones who need to get real.
Although I didn’t know it, heaven knew.
This reminds me of a few beautiful lines in a new song entitled “Heaven Knows” by Hillsong United from the Shack movie soundtrack that really captures MJ’s story and others like her:
Hold my heart, don’t let it bleed no more, sometimes forgiveness is a man at war.
Hold my heart, don’t let it break like fear, sometimes a moment feels like a thousand year.
Jesus encourages us in Matthew 5:16 to “let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.”
Evangelism begins when we refuse to give in to the demonic malaise that comes over us and ends when the lips of those who were once lost worship our Abba.
Sam Kim (@drsammykim) is founder of 180 Church NYC, a community joining God to restore the beauty in all things. He teaches and writes about culture, preaching, and evangelism in various contexts. He is husband to Lydia, dad to Nathan and Josh, and best-friends with his dog, Brownie. Learn more at samdkim.com