I went for a walk yesterday through our neighborhood on South Broad Street. I wanted to be a good neighbor and actually meet some of the people here. I was particularly interested in meeting some of the business owners. It’s the right time to meet them. I can say “Hi, I’m a new pastor at Circle of Hope, what’s going on?” (I always like to have an excuse to strike up conversation)
The first place I went I met a man who when he learned I was a pastor was very interested in sharing with me about his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. I listened politely for a while but grew tired as he continued for, like, half an hour. Finally I got a word in edgewise and I said, “I’m very impressed with your Bible knowledge. You have really studied and memorized a lot of scripture–much more than me, but I have to ask-why are you telling me all this?”
His speech was mostly about facts. It was kind of a demonstration of what he knew about the Bible. I was impressed but discouraged that he didn’t want to make a relationship. His response to my question was more about the Bible and not much about him. I pointed this out to him and described how what we were trying to do at Circle of Hope was different.
My friend said that he had a responsibility to let people know the truth. He said, and I quote, “You know, 1+1 is 2 and 2+2 is 4. It’s like that. People need to know these things otherwise they’re in trouble.” My response to this oversimplification was, “Well, using your metaphor, I would say,’OK, 1+1 is 2 and 2+2 is 4. You know that, but do you know my friend Math? I know him. I have a relationship with him and he’s changed me.’ I don’t think knowing facts about the Bible is nearly as important as knowing Jesus and I have a responsibility to Jesus and to those who don’t yet know him to help them see him for who he truly is and to make a connection.”
It’s not about the Mathematical facts it’s about Mathematics. It’s not about Biblical Principles, it’s about relating to God. But relationships are hard, but not hard like concrete–much to intangible for some. Memorizing how many verses are in the Bible (as my friend had–7958!) is just so much more concrete. I think that’s what Jehovah’s Witness’ have going for their movement. They have a concrete way of being and believing that only requires a “yes” or “no.” It’s as clear as 1+1=2 and they’re ready to tell you why. But life is so much more complex and God became a human being in Jesus (a fact the JWs do not believe) to enter into our complexity.
I believe I am sent as a witness to enter into the complexity of this neighborhood and this city and help those who hear his voice, soften their hearts to him and let him in. They’re letting me in, even in the storefronts on Broad Street, and I pray that’s a good start.