// thoughts from (another) average Christian

The other day, I interviewed a good friend of mine about what it means for him to be an authentic individual. Because he may one day work in a missionary context, he didn’t want his name disclosed, and so for the purposes of this interview he is referred to only as “H”.

He is an Oxford student who is now in work, and we talked for an hour or so about the realities of living out a life of faith in the day to day. It was a thought-provoking interview, and for the next couple of days I’ll be posting excerpts from it. Let me know what you think, and whether or not you agree with his conclusions.

* * *

Tom: H, what does it mean for you to follow Jesus?

H: For me, following Jesus is about a continual process of getting to know Him better. Learning how He does things, say, how I can hear Him speaking to me, and how He responded to situations. You know, the Bible says that the same Spirit that flowed through Him flows through us too, and I want that, to see how it is worked out in specific ways. I want His perspective on things in the end – His priorities.

Tom: Are there any specific moments that you can point to that led you to that realisation?

H: I remember being on a Christian Union weekend away with my school back when I was in year 10, and I sat in the corner pretending to worship and making obscene gestures at the worship leader for the whole time. And it was there, for some reason, that God chose to make Himself known. It was like this bell rang in my head, and I just fell to my knees. It was so unprovoked, and it completely came out of leftfield, but from that point I said to God, “I don’t know much about You, but I want to follow You.” There was really no need to fabricate anything, it was a reality that broke in of its own accord.

Tom: And how does that work itself out in practice, hearing God in the day to day? Typically, what form would that take?

H: It’s hard to put your finger on, really, because it’s different from person to person. I read a lot of biographies of Christian missionaries and sometimes stuff just leaps out from the page – the same thing goes for sermons. Day to day, it’s all about catching a glimpse of what is possible with God. Sometimes it’s just like an echo of what could be, but it inspires you to know more, seek more, pray more – it builds a desire for God, and for things to be the way that they are supposed to be, you know?

You get these glimpses of transcendence, of something more, and that’s exciting.

Tom: If you were presenting the gospel to me, what would you say? How would you tell it to me?

H: I want people to overhear my own conversation with Jesus before anything else. That is to say, I don’t want to spend my time talking about myself, my own achievements – no matter what they are – but want to put the focus on God, because that’s where it belongs. I think it was Hudson Taylor who advised preachers, “let them only hear thee talking to thy God”.

I remember this one night I was sitting in the college bar and this guy just came up to me and said “H, I know I’m far from God, and I don’t know what to do.” That happened without any planning on my part, but that’s the way it should be, I think – evangelism that comes out of an overflow.

If I presented this stuff to you I would major on the fact that this is something real; a real meeting with a real being that transcends anything we have known before. You know the parable of the pearl of great price? Man finds a pearl in a field, sells all he owns so he can have it? I would start with that, maybe. People are so tired of hearing about life solutions that end up being cop-outs – they are looking for something real, and they instinctively know that if it’s real, it is also going to be costly. It’s like the disciples say to Jesus when He asks them if they’re going to leave Him. They say, “where would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”

I would tell you that I believe there is nowhere else on earth where we can have this kind of meeting with eternity. Do you want that?

Tom: Where, typically, does God fit in your daily routine? How focussed are your prayers either on yourself or others, and what is the motivation behind them?

H: I suppose it’s roughly 50-50, an equal mix between passion and duty; obviously when I hear about situations I try and pray specifically for them as far as possible, but sometimes my prayer life just feels like repeating a mantra, asking God day after day to intervene in situations.

So much of prayer is about acknowledging God as the one who does great things and praying in line with that perspective anyway, and so often prayer is a case of speaking to Him in light of that – laying yourself down and saying “Jesus is Lord, not me.”

Tom: Who would you describe as your role models, the people who you aspire to be like? Are they all Christian figures?

H: Again it’s those people with an air of transcendence or authenticity that really stand out to me – the people who seem to see things from a different perspective to a lot of the world. I have this one friend who works for an evangelistic organisation, and his zeal is incredible. There’s no pretence in him – he is sold out on telling people about Jesus, and I admire that, for sure. I admire those people who demonstrate by their lives that God can do great things. Hudson Taylor, Jackie Pullinger, Heidi Baker. What marks those people out is their rawness. They are willing to not only see the pain of their communities but to actively ask God to let them engage with that pain so they can witness in the midst of it. That is incredible, and humbling.

I’ve met other people like that. Some medics, for example, who are so committed to excellence in their medical careers and who, in their devotion to medicine and their commitment to maintaining the humanity of their patients, really stand out. There are some people who seem to just “get it” on a different level to the rest of us.

Tom: And is that the ideal? Should we all be Heidi Bakers or Jackie Pullingers?

H: In my experience, whole-heartedness is rare, no matter where you go. Sure, not everyone is called to Mozambique or to Hong Kong, but there is darkness everywhere, and those women have been called to the darkness that is there and have given their all to serving God in the midst of that. All of us are called to be salt and light somewhere, and we all need a tight focus on something.

Some people just haven’t fully grasped that parable of the pearl of great price. Because when you really get that, you will find yourself saying to God, “my life is truly no my own; I am read to run with whatever You place in my hands.” It’s worth asking, if God were to break your heart for one of those places, would you go?

Or would there be a million reasons that would stop you before you did?

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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