Last winter, when we first began learning to tell Bible stories at Wednesday Bible study, we discovered that we had to unpeel some thinking we had about what needs to happen when you talk about faith in God with someone. We were learning the creation story, and I remember asking the question, "What bothers you about this story?" And someone said, "Well, it doesn't bother me, but I know who I'm going to tell this to, and I know what they're going to ask: 'Seriously, you think God did all that in 6 24-hour days?'"
I didn't say anything in the story about a number of days. And I didn't on purpose. I wanted to tell the story of a God who is pleased with his creation, who gave man and woman a relationship with him and a role to play in creation.
But quickly we began to see that one of the reasons we don't tell stories of our faith is that we feel that going into a conversation about faith, we have to fight. And we have to win.
We talked about the story of evolution, and someone said, "That's just stupid!" and I said, "Really? That's what most of our culture believes, and they think your story is stupid."
Things, as you know, can get ugly.
What if we learn to say, "This is the story that tells me who I am and what I am here for. What's your story? And what does it tell you?"
How can we talk about faith with courage and conviction, but not end up in a sword fight?
I was thinking about that this week, because this week's story is about Peter and John being called before the Jewish religious leaders because they had healed a crippled man in the temple and then started telling the crowd that it had happened by the power of Jesus.
God's Spirit filled Peter, and he replied, "Are we being called on the carpet for doing good to a crippled man? Then know that this happened by the power of Jesus. You rejected him, but the prophets spoke of him. It was always God's plan to restore us and give us life with Him through Jesus. And I'm telling you there is nothing else God has given us that can make us whole and right except Jesus."
Luke's account tells us that the religious leaders were astonished that ordinary men could be so bold. Boldness is what stands out in this story. Peter and John's boldness before the religious leaders. And then, the believers' response when they heard Peter and John's story.
"Now, Lord, consider their threats and give us more boldness to tell everyone everywhere about Jesus. And do even more miracles by the power of Jesus."
In response to their prayer, they were all filled with God's Spirit, the place where they were praying was shaken, and they went out and changed the world.
How can we learn to talk about Jesus with conviction and charm?
The gospel is going to offend people. Jesus is a Revealer; he reveals what is in men's hearts. You can see that the early believers expected Jesus to offend people. But Luke says an interesting thing about them, bold as they were: It was obvious that God was with them, and their life with Him was attractive to people. They had, we would say, charisma. From the Greek word charis, which means graciousness of manner or action, the divine influence upon the heart. Charisma - graciousness that attracts people - is what you have when God's Spirit fills you.
Left to his own devices, Peter used to cut off people's ears. But Jesus didn't choose Peter to lead his church and leave him to his own devices. And he doesn't leave us on our own either. Remember, he promised, "And I will be with you to the very end."
I believe we can be bold in a better way.
Click here to listen to the story and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to?