"Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning." - Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27
I don't admit this to many people, so please keep it to yourself: I was once a contestant in a beauty pageant.
It was a mock pageant, a fundraiser during my senior year of High School, but we had all the standard events: talent, formalwear, swimwear and a question from one of the judges who happened to be the cafeteria staff, a.k.a. the lunch ladies. My question was "If you could spend one hour with any person living or dead, who would it be and why?"
Now I grew up in the church. I had been confirmed. I was active in youth group. I knew my Bible pretty well. The answer was obvious! It's the one-who-loves-me-this-I-know-woke-up this-morning-with-my-mind-stayed-fairest-Lord-what-a-friend-I-have-in…in…
I won't bother telling you my actual answer (it's just too darn embarrassing) but it wasn't Jesus. I dropped the ball, too worried about being labeled a religious nut and killing my already struggling social life. The personal cost seemed too high. Even now, as a professional God talker, I occasionally get the willies about outing myself as a Jesus-head in mixed company.
Paul had no such compunction. He had a knack for getting himself in all kinds of holy hot water for proclaiming Christ. To Paul, the human cost of remaining silent about the life-changing good news of Jesus was far higher than any personal cost of sharing it. There was an Anglican cleric who famously said, "Wherever the Apostle Paul went, there was either a revival or a riot. Wherever I go they serve tea." Yikes.
So here's my challenge to you: For the sake of the world God loves, get off the saucer and into the cup. Mention God to somebody TODAY. Slide God into a conversation (OMG and the like don't count). It could be as simple and unobtrusive as "Those flowers are gorgeous! Isn't God an amazing artist?" Tomorrow, mention Jesus.
You may sweat a bit. You might be met with stony silence, but my guess is you won't get a stoning. You might just plant a seed or start a beautiful, life-changing conversation with someone who needs God like nothing else.
Light a fire in us dear God; a light of love for you that burns brighter than all our fears, reservations and excuses, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.