After almost a year of writing these updates for my church, I'm sensing the need to move on to a discussion of some more of the practical aspects of missional, kingdom living that allows me to naturally share my faith with those around me. For me, one of the hardest parts of living this way has been to figure out what it looks like at a practical level. One of my goals for this blog has been to create a place where the practical issues can be discussed.
The challenging part is that there's no real formula to faith discussions or kingdom living. I can't tell you in seven quick steps or five quick tips how to reach the people around you. For every person, there is a unique set of barriers to faith in God. For every relationship you have with someone, there are different relational dynamics. And everyone's life is at a different point, so the questions that they have about God and faith come in no predictable order.
One more caveat and then we'll jump to a practical example: The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to be a part of his Kingdom. And his Kingdom is the rule and reign of Christ as people are transformed by him and begin to see their lives changed. In addition, as Christ-like people engage in the tasks of everyday life, God is present with them and is working through them to restore and redeem all things. So if we hope to be "evangelists," we have to be able to both explain this and demonstrate what it looks like. For me, the demonstration usually comes before the explanation, and there are often thousands of little demonstrations as I practice the presence of God in my world before I ever get to share verbally about what my faith is and where it comes from.
So... let's go back to last week, where I explained I had some money that clients owed me that I sensed God leading me to waive. It was quite a lot of money, so it was a big deal to tell them not to pay it. So how did my following Jesus lead me to forgive this debt?
I was working on this particular case with another attorney. He's actually one of the most generous attorneys I've ever met. He routinely gives time and money away to people. I can't see inside his head or his heart to know what motivates that generosity, but suffice it to say that this is not normally what I see in the attorneys around me. So anyway, I agreed to do this case for a certain amount of money. The other attorney was going to be making the same amount in legal fees--so we split it up 50/50. A month or two ago, he sends me an email and says that he's going to give me his second half, so that I'd be making 75% and he'd just take the 25% that he already had. He was impressed with the job I'd done, recognized that the amount and quality of work was much more than he was expecting, and wanted to see me compensated.
I wasn't sure how to respond at that time. It made me uncomfortable to take his money, knowing he'd been working just as hard as I was. It made me thankful for his generosity. Eventually I just said to him that it was very generous and let it drop (I've been working hard on learning to receive gifts and blessings from other people).
But then we get to the end of the case, and it turns out that my client was innocent--really and truly innocent. He'd been charged with a serious felony, and he'd had to mortgage his house and take money from his retirement to pay his bond and our legal fees. And this other attorney and I had talked a lot about justice and our broken system and all the ways we try to hold back the injustice that we see. And he knows I'm a Christian and that I do what I do (representing indigent clients) because of my beliefs. And I just kept thinking about how justice is bigger than getting my client a dismissal. It's unjust that the client had to go through 10 months of turmoil as the case meandered through the system. It's unjust that a false accusation led to a huge financial burden of legal fees and court costs. And I can't do anything about the first issue, but I don't have to take more money from the client than I need. So I began to pray about the fee I was still owed - both the money I originally agreed to take and the money that I was going to get from the other attorney's share.
And then I thought about the other attorney's generosity. Whatever his motivation, how could I not be as generous to other people as he was to me? Hasn't God been generous with me by inviting me to share in Jesus's inheritance? How could my actions related to this money best demonstrate the character and generosity of God? How could I show what it means to live in God's kingdom and according to his values? How could I show that my faith is real and affects every area of my life, not just what I do on Sundays?
And as I prayed over these questions, I really only had one option--taking no more than what I needed and forgiving the rest of the debt.
The challenging thing, going forward, is that the kingdom of God is invisible. It's like yeast working through a whole batch of dough. You can't really see what each grain of yeast is doing, but after a while, you see their combined effects. Similarly, I may never be able to see exactly how my actions affect the Kingdom of God. I think it gives a validity to my faith--I'm not just talking about Jesus, I'm living like he'd want me to. But will that ultimately transform peoples' lives? I don't know. Maybe it will be one thing that makes my attorney friend interested in knowing more about Jesus. Maybe it will be a huge blessing to my client so that he can bless other people. Maybe it'll lay the groundwork so that other Christians will have the opportunity to share their faith. Maybe someday soon I'll have the opportunity to tell more of my story to my attorney friend or my client. It's not for me to know the end, only to follow Jesus wherever he leads.