The story is told of two farmers who meet. One is carrying a sack. “I’ve been catching rabbits”, he says.
“And how many did you catch?”
“I’m not telling you, but if you guess right you can have all five of them…”
The point is that we cannot prevent ourselves from giving away the truth about ourselves. We may not mean to, or we may fondly believe that we are creating a different impression than we are. But our brains are incredibly fine-tuned to read other people: their tone of voice, facial expressions, and their tiniest actions. That is because our survival has depended upon it. In the pandemic, I have noticed that I do not even need to see someone’s whole face. If someone is wearing a mask, I can tell how they are feeling from their eyes. I am sure that you can do the same. And people see us for who we really are.
Sometimes preachers tell us that we must impress our faith upon others. ‘Go out and tell people!’ I have come to see that this is putting things the wrong way round, and risks just making people feel guilty and inadequate. When we have a close relationship with Jesus, we cannot help but show it, and people cannot help but see it. All we have to do is to stay close to Jesus and not try to hide it.
Most of the sermons in the Bible are not planned, self-conscious attempts to persuade. They are explanations to people who have just seen God at work. Just have a look. At Pentecost, the multitude were “all amazed… saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?...But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them…” [Acts 2: 12-17].
Everything that happens, whether the restrictions of the pandemic, ill-health or any imaginable circumstance, is simply a new setting, which cannot help but be visible, in which we can continue to be close to Jesus; a ‘lampstand’ on which God’s light can shine through us [Matthew 5:15]. People may not completely understand, and so need an explanation, but they can see the main thing. People were attracted to Jesus, not because his preaching persuaded them, but because he was so close to His Father that it shone through, and he helped them understand what they could not help but see for themselves. This theme of genuineness is the core of all His teaching. One of the reasons he spoke so strongly against hypocrites is that what they said about themselves was so obviously untrue, and people became confused and disorientated.
Our greatest calling is to draw close to our Lord, to experience his forgiveness and confidence that His Father and ours is at work in the work. The rest will look after itself.
Draw close to me, just as you drew close to your Father:
“At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”; John 14:20
that your light might shine through me to all I meet;
and “our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace”.