Accepting fully the shared mission as a member of the Body of Christ—that you are called just like the original eleven Apostles to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:18)—you know and believe that you are sent out into the world to bring people to Jesus, or even more so to bring Jesus to the people. Yet this mission can often seem overwhelming.
Facing the daunting task of sharing your faith in Christ, especially in our overly secularized modern culture, is too often perceived as mission impossible. And although at times I share this sentiment, I am reassured of the possibility—and dare I say assurance—of evangelical success by the example of the holy men and women who have gone before us and who share this mission with us even from heaven.
St. Maximilian Kolbe is a man most often remembered for his heroic death at the hands of the Nazis, but even before this culminating moment he had long before laid down his life for God. As a Conventual Franciscan he founded an impressive friary that ended up being one of the largest of its time, which took up the task of publishing a newspaper called “The Knight,” which became recognized as one of the greatest in his home of Poland, and soon around the world as far as Japan.
Reading the first person accounts of people who knew and loved him, it is easy to see why he was so quick to offer his life for a stranger in a concentration camp. For he had already given himself completely over to the perfect will of God, taking up wholeheartedly the mission of the Apostles. Yet he approached it in a way that wasn’t off-putting as many of we Christians tend to be.
“I never heard him preach, knew him as a confessor, or anything like that. I came to visit him whenever I was at Teresin, spending three or four hours at a time with him because he attracted me. He radiated goodness. Everyone, I think, felt happy just to be with him, no matter what one was doing. One felt he very rarely thought of himself – that he was always making renunciations. Nevertheless, he wasn’t a sad, but a cheerful, man. I can’t even tell you what his title was – whether he was editor, superior, or what. He wasn’t trying to be impressive. If a man ever existed … who had no prior, that was Father Maximilian. He was just like a child, and this appealed to me. We just used to play, eat, whatever, but he had a great influence on me. His friendship was a benediction.” (Prince Drucki-Lubecki in “A Man for Others”)
Those are the words of a man deeply impacted by his friendship with St. Maximilian Kolbe. He was attracted to him because “he radiated goodness.” How many of our friends can say that about us? Yet it’s true that those souls filled with God are people who reflect his light on the world. And we are attracted to that holiness—not necessarily the solemn, silent saint with his eyes always downcast, but the joyful, humble holiness as described here. This is the kind of person you just want to be around, the kind of person deep down that we all want to be. In fact, it’s the kind of person that God has created us to be, that he challenges us to be.
Don’t Tell ’Em, Show ’Em
To live in intimate relationship with God, to be a person of deep faith, and to share that faith in a way that is natural, organic, and personal is the best way to fulfill the mission that Jesus entrusted upon us.
“Father Maximilian was a wonderful salesman for Christianity because he never pushed it. He never criticized or challenged any other religion. People would come and see us. They saw our life. They asked whatever questions they wanted and he answered—that was all. Like a good salesman, he let them see the product, gave them the information they asked for, and then left them strictly free to make up their own minds.” (John Dagis in “A Man for Others”)
Think of it less as telling people about Jesus, and more as showing people Jesus in yourself, in who you are and how you live. Your lived example will be more convincing, more inviting, more attractive, and in the end more challenging to others as you invite them through your actions to get to know God. To employ the image used above: a good salesman doesn’t just sell a product; he believes in his product, he uses the product himself, and he can’t live without his product, which is why he wants to share this product with others. A Christian who is living the mission of a disciple is one who believes in Jesus, who knows Jesus, who can’t live without Jesus, and who wants to share with others the love, peace, and joy that he has experienced as a result of living in relationship with Jesus.
Customer testimonials are the best way to sell a product, just as personal example is the best way to lead people to Christ. Tell them who God is and what he has done in your life, but even more importantly, show them who God is and what he has done in your life.
My favorite prayer to say before sharing my faith with someone comes from Psalm 51 in the Christian Community Bible – Catholic Pastoral Edition. I share it hear in the hope that it might serve you as well as it has served me.
“Renew my joy in your salvation. Sustain in me a willing spirit. I will teach the wicked your ways, that they may return to you. Save me from death, O God, my saving God, that my tongue may proclaim your healing power. O Lord, open my lips that my mouth may proclaim your praises.” (Psalm 51:14-17)