I didn’t expect Jesus to show up in a bar that evening. No, it wasn’t a hipster dude with a big beard. It was at my high school reunion where I reconnected with Chris—a formerly awkward and quiet student who now sported snazzy glasses, stylishly gelled hair, and an identity as an openly gay man.
I had braced myself for the various negative responses when I tell people I’m in campus ministry—yet that night as we reminisced about listening to Nirvana, being in the drama club, and our favorite teachers, Chris was intrigued about my work to help college students know Jesus and live out their faith on campus.
At one point in our casual conversation, Chris queried, “Can I ask you a personal question?” Brows furrowed as he took another sip of his drink when I agreed to his request. “What do you think of me as a gay man since you’re a Christian minister?”
Gulp. I took another sip of my drink, feeling the condensation drip down the pint glass. In his question I felt the weight of how much the Christian community has hurt gay people and how much I don’t want to be seen as “one of those Christians.” Before I answered his question (why couldn’t he have asked if I was a natural blonde?!) I scanned the club and my former classmates gettin’ jiggy on the dance floor.
In that brief moment God gave me a vision of Jesus passing through the crowds, present at the party, making his way among the people there that night. With a smile and a nod he glanced at me and his quiet voice sounded in my mind, “I’m here too, I’m with you here tonight. Tell him about my love.”
I turned to Chris and decided that it was more important that I tell him about what Jesus thought of him than what I thought of him. I needed to be willing to sacrifice what Chris thought of me and risk that he might lump me in as just another Christian stereotype as we stood there in a crowded bar.
Following Jesus Will Cost You
In John 12:23-27 Jesus is on his way through Jerusalem preparing to be crucified. A group of Greek people ask his disciples if they can see Jesus, a request Phillip brings to Jesus. Jesus’ response is this:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Wherever there are moments like the one in the bar where it seems risky to share Jesus, we have a choice to preserve our image of how we want to be seen as a Christian or die to our own egos and share Jesus. It might be with a friend who is a devout atheist, a gay person, someone who has been hurt by the church or is disenfranchised. It might be with a professor or in a big group of people who have a low opinion of Christians and aren’t afraid to share it.
Jesus invites you to follow him in sacrificing your life, your reputation, and the version of your faith you want to portray to others. Following Jesus will cost you your life, and possibly your relationships in this world. But the trade-off is that when we follow Jesus and tell others about his love, he multiplies our small efforts to lead our friends into a transforming relationship with God both now and forever.
Jesus identified with the joys and suffering of people, saw the brokenness in this world, and chose to heal our sin through his death on the cross. God, in his love and power raised Jesus from the dead so that he would be accessible to all who believe in Jesus. When we choose to believe in and follow Jesus, he transforms us into the people God always intended us to be. And a big part of how he does that is through us sharing his message of the gospel.
That night in the crowded bar I shared this message with Chris and invited him to take a step forward in exploring Jesus for himself. Though I was afraid of what Chris might think of me, Jesus is way more attractive than I could ever hope for. Chris looked at me, putting his hand on his heart, and with a sincere look on his face, replied, “Thank you, I don’t think anyone has ever told me that before.”
This Lent, ask for God to give you boldness to speak up about Jesus even when it might be a sacrifice. Invite someone in your life who is far from God to take a step forward in discovering for themselves who Jesus is. Offer to pray for a friend who doesn’t yet know Jesus, invite them to look at the gospel of John with you so that they can get to know Jesus for themselves, or invite them to serve with you, explaining that your motivation flows from Jesus’ sacrifice for you.