I believe that the best feeling in the world is getting some good news to distract you from studying. One time in college, while studying with some friends, we’d reached a point where we were spending more time on our phones than our upcoming test and I got a text from a friend. He shared with me that he decided he wanted to become Catholic. I freaked out, blurted the news to the study group, and ran out the door to call him. We had a great chat where he talked about how the Christian witness of some of our friends really showed him the authentic love and confidence he had been searching for. I was so excited as I finished up my phone call. Before I walked back into the room, I could hear my study group talking.
Through some thin library wall, I heard casual chatter turn into whispered curiosity. “Why would anyone become Catholic? Wouldn’t it be better if they picked an easier religion that’s less strict?” “Sometimes, Kiernan seems so brainwashed in all this outdated religious stuff. It’s only a matter of time till he comes after us.” My excitement about my friend’s conversion came crashing down as I stood there, my stomach sinking, debating what to do. There was so much I wanted to say and explain, yet fear of further judgment held me back. In my moment of opportunity where I could have provided some type of clarity or even just stood for my beliefs, I did nothing. Instead, I simply stepped back into the room and returned to working with them like I hadn’t heard anything they said.
I was so discouraged by how I failed to be honest about my faith to my classmates. Looking at my life as a college student, most of the people I interacted with on a daily basis were not practicing Catholics. Instead they subscribed to the “gospel of the world,” putting their faith in things like social norms, celebrities, and politics. It seemed like most people I knew allowed these things to dictate the lives they lived and I knew that God wanted more for them.
We are part of this world, which is full of God’s goodness, but is also full of temptations that can lead us away from Him. Christ invites us to lean in and witness to all those we meet. He tells us to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Notice He said “all nations” — not just to proclaim the Gospel to the people around us or the people that we know will accept it. This is our invitation: to reach out to all people, including, in a particular way, those friends who have embraced the fading things of this world instead of the eternal love of God.
How did Jesus do it?
The best way to respond to this invitation is to follow the example of Christ. Everything that Jesus Christ did was rooted in the love of God the Father. Jesus desires to draw us closer to his Father in heaven. When we bring the Christian life to our non-Christian and worldly friends, our intentions must be fully rooted in love for God. In challenging others to seek authentic relationship with Christ, we ourselves need to follow Jesus’ example and constantly turn to prayer to remain in deep relationship with God the Father.
In addition to remaining rooted in God, we have to remember that Christ came down into the world and all of its brokenness in order to invite His people into the fullness of life He had for them. He entered the lives of sinners like us and journeyed with them and we’re called to do the same — not to shy away from the brokenness around us, but enter into it for the sake of inviting every person we encounter into the fullness of life in Christ.
However, in responding to this call and His example, it’s important to look at the fact that Jesus didn’t become a product of His the brokenness that surrounded Him; His reaching out to sinners didn’t affect His holiness. In the same way, if we are trying to witness to friends who are living according to the gospel of the world, we have to actively avoid being converted to that gospel. Yes, it’s important to be able to relate to people who are caught up in the ways of the world, as they’re just as worthy of the Gospel as anyone; but our efforts to be relatable for the sake of sharing the Gospel should never lead us to abandon our path to holiness and fall into sin.
Time to be Bold
Moving past my failure to witness at the library, I knew I needed to grow in being honest to everyone I knew about my faith. Often times, I was so afraid to be judged or compartmentalised as the “religious” friend. But as I sought out and found solid friends in the faith who accepted and loved me, I realized that authenticity wasn’t something to fear. So with my friends outside the faith, I began to reach with the message of hope and love that is the Gospel. Our call is to embrace everyone as Christ did. Jesus came to the wounded. He healed those broken and hurt by the culture of this world and He asks us to do the same. In speaking Christ’s name and proclaiming His truth to those around us, Jesus extends His hand out to people of this world to touch and heal their brokenness. So in times you’re afraid to be bold, remember that each and every person you encounter needs Jesus just as much as you do, so why hesitate to share the Good News?
Don’t Fear Rejection
Being bold, though, can come with a cost. Christ faced rejection many times in His public ministry. Some people might just not be ready to accept the fullness of Truth, a Truth so drastically different from the lives they currently live. It might take time and it might be outright rejected. In His rejection though, Christ did not become discouraged but rather rejoiced in those that did accept the love of the Father. Don’t let the times you feel misunderstood or rejected deter you. Instead, join Christ in his rejoicing.
Additionally, in your continued witness to those who have rejected the Gospel and as you dive deeper in your personal faith, don’t be afraid to ask the hard question: “is this a friendship that is leading me away from Christ?” If that is the case, you may need to consider loving that person solely by praying for them, as a close relationship with them could hurt your relationship with God. A good friend, regardless of his or her beliefs will never lead you away from Jesus. Be honest with yourself about your temptations and weaknesses — sometimes distance is necessary from friends who pull us away from Jesus, so that we don’t lose sight of who we were called to be.
Always Be Yourself
In our call to be witnesses to all nations, remember that Jesus is not asking us to be anything other than our authentic selves, on this journey to heaven, passionately pursuing Him in all that we do. My friend who called me that night at the library was drawn to the Catholic faith by the way my friends and I lived out our faith in everything we did. He saw and attributed our confidence and joy to Christ working in us.
When we hang out with people, we have the opportunity to invite Jesus into that. When we play sports with or go to lunch with people, we have an opportunity to open in a prayer. When we talk about new shows and movies, we can point out the way the Christian life is portrayed well or poorly. Jesus wants us and our friends, Christian or not, to know the true happiness that He made us for — and when we invite Him into all of our relationships and social events, He is able to lead us into that happiness.
The power of witness is the ability to show, by example, how Jesus speaks to the hearts of others and ourselves. All people, whether they realize it or not, are thirsting for an authentic witness to Christ’s love. God is calling you to respond to that thirst. Trust in Him, be bold, and be yourself — He’ll take care of the rest.