42And whoever is makes one of these little ones who believe on me stumble, it would be better if a millstone were put around his neck and he were to have been thrown into the sea. — Mark 9:42
That’s a short passage of scripture, but it is one that should make us think. Jesus is all about saving people, and he doesn’t like things that get in the way! He cares more about people’s souls than about anything else. Do we?
A group of young Christians gathered after an evening meeting at a restaurant. They were enthusiastic about what they had heard, and they sincerely loved Jesus. It was very important to them to talk about what Jesus had done in their lives and to be witnesses. So they talked loudly and definitely.
Their waitress was tired and was living on the limited income. She was not a Christian. The young people made sure to witness to her, many of them with some vigor. She tried to serve them and be polite and quiet. When the Christians left the table they didn’t leave her a tip.
Now I don’t know how those young people felt about their evening, but I’m suspecting that they congratulated themselves on witnessing to their heathen waitress. I can’t be sure of that, because I don’t know who they were. I got the story from the waitress who was not attracted to Christianity based on the behavior of those particular Christians. She was driven farther from faith in Jesus by their words and actions.
Now I suspect there are far more people in our churches who have never expressed their faith public, who are afraid to offer the blessing in restaurants because people might see them, or who always explain that it just wasn’t the time to witness when they let someone pass by without talking about Jesus.
But at the same time there are many who use disparaging terms of non-Christians, who witness in an unfriendly way, or who talk about Jesus when their behavior is not a good witness. If you are wearing a WWJD bracelet while berating the store clerk for a lack of service, what is your witness for Jesus?
But a more basic question is this: How do you decide what, if anything, to say about Jesus to someone you encounter? It’s quite possible that you may be talking to someone who has been seriously hurt in church, and one more person talking to them is more than they can handle. On the other hand you might be talking to someone whose deepest desire is for someone to care about them, to approach them, and offer to pray with them.
In practical terms, let me suggest two things. First, listen to the Holy Spirit, all day, every day. Be ready. Second, listen to the person, and not necessarily in that order. Often the Holy Spirit is not going to help you when you have the information available right in front of you. Take time to find out who that other person is before you assume you have the solution to their problems.
But there is a critical point in this verse. On what basis do you decide what to do? Is your motivation the same one that Jesus has? Is your primary concern for that person’s soul? If it is, you’re going to find it much easier to listen, to discern, and to behave in the best way possible. If not, you’re likely to be a stumbling block, either through your silence or through your offending speech.
Let the mind of Jesus guide you (Philippians 2:5-11).