Well, this is awkward. I honestly didn’t see it coming. I am not the kind of guy who will chat you up on a bus. I am also not the kind of guy who likes being chatted up in the bus either. I cherish my privacy. Commuting time usually doubles as my reading time, and this afternoon was no different. So, here I was, seated at the back of the bus. I removed my phone from my pocket to check my e-mail before I got to my reading.
“Is that an Ideos phone?” I assumed he was talking to someone else, but the guy seated next to me was obviously pointing at my phone.
I nodded reluctantly, making it clear that I didn’t want to find out where this odd question was leading. He seemed not to notice, or care. A barrage of questions about phones, internet speeds, and Facebook followed. Soon, we were in deep conversation. I had to give him this, the guy was an excellent conversationalist. I grew even more interested when our chat took a turn for the world of literature. We parked there for awhile, talking about books and the declining reading culture in Kenya and the world over. Then a Tupac song began playing on the bus radio and this sparked a new topic of music and how modern day hip hop has nothing on Old School rap. We found common ground on many things. I was beginning to relax. This went on intermittently for about an hour.
Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr
I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over sharing it. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.
I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.
The e-mail I happened to be checking turned out to be today’s For the Love of God commentary by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.
I was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. (Carrying Out Discipleship Everywhere). Talk about a shouting hint.
We stayed in that traffic for slightly over 2 hours.
So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:
1. WHY SHOULD I BE A KILLJOY?
The guy was lively and interesting. There was no point making the conversation awkward. Furthermore, I always find it easier to share the Gospel with people who seem a bit distressed and sad. Somehow, I managed to deceive myself that he didn’t need the Gospel. He seemed happy.
2. I ALREADY COMPROMISED TOO MUCH.
When we began talking about the Old School rap, I was tempted to show the guy that I also knew my music, and I took off showing how much of Tupac, Lost Boyz, Naughty by Nature and Dr. Dre’s lyrics I still remembered. I conveniently forgot to mention that I knew all that from my past life, before I met Christ. It seemed too late to bring up the Gospel.
3. TOO MANY EARS AROUND.
It’s one thing to talk about Christ one-on-one with a stranger when it’s just the two of you, but it’s quite another thing when the woman seated on the other side of you is obviously eavesdropping.
4. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW HOW.
Yes, this is Cornell. I can articulate the Gospel with the precision of a poet and the clarity of a philosopher on paper or on a pulpit. But something just happens when I have to do it in the mess and muddle of everyday business. There’s no time to plan, no timing seems perfect. However, a big part of the reason why this is the case is that I have paid little attention to the numerous guides and guidelines written on street evangelism. I have nothing but my ignorance to blame for this.
So, there you go. After all is said and done, after all the excuses and rationalizations, only one reality remains. I was ashamed of the Gospel. No, I wasn’t afraid of the people who would hear me talking about Jesus on a bus. What can they do to me? The fear I felt has a more appropriate term, shame. I felt shame. Me? Cornell? Talking about Jesus to a stranger on a bus? This may not have been the exact attitude I had at the time, but it may as well be.
So, I got to the church, but the guilt continued to tug at my heart. I ended up being a bit distracted throughout the prayer and study sessions. I knew what I needed to do. I bowed down and repented to God. I had failed. I repented of being ashamed of the Gospel. I know that tomorrow I may face a situation just like today’s. I am not sure if I will handle it any differently. But I am praying and will continue praying for courage, boldness and the discernment to share the Gospel with random strangers at every “opportune” moment. It is my prayer that you, the person reading this, will pray the same prayer too.
I decided to share this because I realize that this shame is not unique to me. It doesn’t matter how many 1.1.6 T-shirts you have in your closet.
After the prayers and Bible Study, I left church for home. When I entered the cab, I found the driver listening to some preacher on the radio. As I put on my seat belt, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly he reached forward and changed the channel to some country music station. I looked down in sad apprehension.
Father, forgive us for the many times we have been ashamed of your Gospel.
Strengthen our faith, may we live like we believe; grant us the boldness to freely share the message that we have so freely received.