Uh oh, did my religion just gag you?

I was working at a church in northern Thailand when I first met him.

23 years old, torn jeans, hair to his shoulders, with a laugh that filled the room, joy followed Dom wherever he went. Somehow when Dom was there everyone seemed happier. It wasn’t him exactly. It was the air he carried.

I knew a bit of his life’s circumstances. He was living at poverty level by Thai standards, worked at the church, and helped out cleaning and doing odd jobs including helping university students with their English.

When I met him he hadn’t been a follower of Jesus for long. Prior to his decision to become a Christian, he was a Buddhist monk.

Like most young men in Thailand, Dom served a season of his life in the monastery. It is believed that this is good karma both for your mother and yourself, while also being a right of passage into adulthood.

One day, while waiting on friends to meet us, I worked up the courage to ask Dom, “What makes you so different?”

“What do you mean, Charity?” he asked, completely taken off-guard by my forthright American way.

I put my hands on my hips, looked up, winced and searched for words. Not any suitable, culturally appropriate words came, but I tried again nonetheless, “When you enter the room, the spiritual atmosphere changes. You are close to Jesus. How? Do you think you might be closer to Him than me.”

He smiled at me knowingly, patient with my questions, and answered them with his testimony.

“You know, I used to be a monk,” Dom started.

“Yes,” I nodded. “Do you think that’s what it is? Your time in there.”

His laugh told me I was being absurd, but my question was sincere. He had something I did not have and I had been a “Christian” my whole life. How could I be missing this essential thing he had?

He explained, “While I was at the monastery, I meditated, chanted, studied the teachings of Buddha, and prayed sometimes 18 hours a day.”

I sat pondering, How would my life look differently if I was this committed to Jesus? I can barely make it through 10 minute devotional time without getting a pop song stuck in my head.

Oh no! Even in writing this, I just got a pop song stuck in my head. Alas, back to the story!

He continued, “I tried and tried to find rest in my soul. The harder I tried, the more I failed. I was there in the monastery, but my heart wasn’t in it.”

My mind once again turned inward, feeling better about my own failures. He was failing as a monk… I am failing a Christian. We’re all failing.

I coddled myself.

But, wait, he was no longer a monk. He was no longer failing at faith. So, why do I feel like I’m failing, while watching Him live freely with God? What’s different about the two of us?

He continued his story before I could restate my question, “One day I snuck out and got together with an old friend from school. He wasn’t doing any of the things I was doing at the monastery, yet he had peace. He had the same life struggles I had, but no anxiety. So, I asked Him this same question you are asking me, ‘What makes you so different from me?’”

His answer to Dom was a simple, “I’m trying Jesus. You know, Dom, trying Jesus is like tasting an orange. You can enjoy Him slice by slice. If it tastes bad, you don’t have to keep eating. But, I’m finding the way of Jesus is always tasting good. It’s becoming all I want.”

“Then what he said next made a lot of sense, ‘Dom, if you never try an orange, how will you know how it tastes. Try Jesus and see.’”

Dom looked straight through me, “Charity, this is what makes me different. I keep tasting the orange. The goodness of Jesus is nourishing me even now from the inside out,” his eyes sparkled as he explained.

That’s it, I thought. This is what I’m missing.

The difference between Dom and I was that he was inviting Jesus into his life like a continual hit of Divine goodness. I, on the other hand, was trying to ingest whole oranges to care for my self imposed spiritual depravity. I wasn’t continually ingesting the full life experience of Jesus.

Many people, like myself, have met Jesus, but they are not enjoying the experience of Jesus. How do I know? I can feel it when I’m with them. It’s in their lack of joy, constant anxiety, and striving toward success. These same people are offering a Jesus that is not nourishing them to the world around them.

People who’ve never tasted the goodness that is Jesus are left to wonder, “If Christians lack joy and fulfillment, why would I want Jesus?”

An orange is nutritious, tastes great, and provides vitamin C that gives you lasting energy. But, no matter how great an orange is, if I tried to cram it down your throat, you’d gag.

In fact, you’d probably punch me or kick me in the ankles. You might cuss a little (or a lot.) It wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to run away and call the cops.

So, why are Christians shocked when people who have not yet tasted the Goodness that is Jesus are appalled by us cramming it down their throats?

Christians wave the banner for values and morals, hold up signs on street corners, push tracks into people’s hands, and insistently invite people to church. 

Most of us cowardly ones stick to writing passive aggressive messages on social media. Meanwhile, people are gagging, as we wonder why people are not readily lining up for what we are offering. But, where is the Goodness? 

The delivery of Jesus to those who have not yet to tasted His goodness matters.

I can’t say that I have this figured out. But, in figuring it out, I must accept that it begins inside of me. I cannot offer a slice of Goodness that I do not yet possess.

3 Steps we Must Take to Jesus’ Goodness to Others… without Gagging Them.

1. We must taste and enjoy God’s goodness in every moment, every day.

If you are not experiencing the goodness that is Jesus continually, you will become spiritually malnourished.

Symptoms of spiritual malnourishment include failure to thrive, slow spiritual growth, fatigue, imbalance, weakness, and loss of strength.

If this is you, there’s an immediate answer.

You don’t have to wait and hope for your situation to change. Just take the goodness that is Jesus.

I’ve observed in my life when I feel spiritually malnourished that I tend to want to strive my way back to Jesus by earning His grace and doing good things.

Follow my lead (and experience from past failure) on this one, striving won’t get you anywhere. Simply re-accept Jesus and ENJOY Him. It’s really that easy.

When you enjoy Jesus, your joy will return to you. And, remember, you cannot invite people to experience a joy you do not currently have.

2. We can be joyfully contagious.

In the same way that disease, depression, and negativity is contagious, so is health, joy, and positivity.  

I remember spending time with Dom in Thailand and literally wishing I could catch His spirit.

Here’s what’s amazing. He was contagious for me! I caught it. His joy stuck to me when I accepted it. And, now, I’m able to make it accessible to others.

But, being spiritually contagious means stepping out. You can’t always spend time with people who already have this joy within and expect people who do not have it to catch it.

Step away for intentional moments from those who have the joy of Jesus (and take them with you!) Be joyfully contagious to those who have lost their joy or have yet to find it.

3. We can offer a piece of ourselves. 

I watched as Dom lived his life. Students naturally gravitated to him. He had nothing to offer them, but himself.

There was never a pushy religious argument, quite the opposite. Instead, Dom offered everything he had and they found that Jesus was in Him.

I often observed him giving an extravagant amount of time to people, asking them about their lives with curiosity. He sincerely cared about them. It wasn’t a religious game.

They, like myself, often saw Jesus in Dom. He would share His story and they would choose to “taste the orange.”

Jesus commissioned his followers to bring good news to others. That news is Jesus and His Spirit lives within His followers.

So, when a Jesus follower chooses to live openly and offer themselves to others, they are offering Jesus himself through their selflessness.

What are you offering to others? Is it great?

What are you spreading? Is it good?

What are you spiritually ingesting every day? Is it wholesome? Is it something you would be glad to offer to someone else?

I ask these questions, not with arrogance, but with experience.

I have crammed “the orange” down people’s throats. However, I am conversely tasting the orange each day now… and I am actively working on changing my methods for sharing with others.

I have been the unhappy “Christian” who lacked joy and it showed. I am now choosing joy beyond my circumstances and it fairs well on me. I share my joy in hopes of it being contagious.

I desire the same for you.

I believe there may be 3 types of people reading this today…

1. Those Who’ve Gagged.

Maybe Jesus was crammed into your mouth without your consent? I’m so sorry this happened.

But, just like an orange may gag you, it also could be your source of life.

Remind yourself today, people may have had the best of intentions as they were gagging you. This Jesus-thing was doing something good for them. You’ll never know why they’re so passionate about Jesus if you don’t try Him.

You don’t have to eat the whole orange to see if it’s good. Maybe try again? Just differently this time, I suggest slice by slice so you don’t gag.

2. The Offended.

Maybe you’re reading my words and are off-put by them? Maybe in your sincere enthusiasm you have passionately shared Jesus with others and you don’t like that being called “cramming it down people’s throats?”

Maybe you feel I’m pointing a finger at you? That is not my intent. I do not desire to stir controversy among my Christian brothers and sister.

I do believe, however, the way we offer the Goodness of Jesus matters. And, I’m trying to figure this out for myself too. 

3. The Spiritually Malnourished.

Maybe you’re starving for something authentic for your soul? You don’t have to live malnourished. Pick up a Bible, say an honest prayer, and take a taste.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Have you ever felt like you’ve had Jesus pushed on you?

Have you ever been a pusher?

Did you feel like the experience of pushing Jesus equates to the character of Jesus?

What do you believe is the best way to present Jesus to others with the context of real life?

P.S. A special thanks to Dom (*not his real name) for uncovering the mysteries of the Universe for me. You showed me that Jesus was accessible to me in real life by the way you lived your. I’ll forever be indebted to you.

 


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