One of my early childhood memories involves my kindergarten self reasoning with my four year-old neighbour Andy about his eternal destination based on his lack of church attendance and evident lack of faith in Jesus. "You don't want to go to hell, do you?" I asked him, before I was corrected by my mother for my misapplied religious zeal. As I got older, I learned that some topics like salvation and damnation were better avoided, except perhaps among people who were like-minded and wanted a friendly debate about predestination. Even these debates had the potential to degenerate into heated exchanges that became highly personal. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, as I attended Christian grade-school, high school, and university, I was surrounded by other Christians and with people who knew the gospel message, even if they didn't personally believe in it. I had no non-Christian friends, and few non-Christian social contacts. While I do remember times I shared about my faith, or presented the gospel, these instances were infrequent. I took comfort in the quote "Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words." My lifestyle and attitudes should speak of my Christian commitment, and draw others towards Christ. Although, sometimes I had my doubts that my life was extraordinary enough to merit scrutiny or to compel someone to say "I want what she has." Also my life seemed to more shaped by my religious list of behaviours and practices to avoid and some positive actions that must be performed, such as Bible reading, prayer, and occasional good works, than by a positive living out of my faith, drawing on a deep connection with Christ to truly love and serve others. Selfishness, pride, greed, hatred, jealousy, and anger were and remain quite obviously a part of my daily life, and however much I tried to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit I failed and I continue to fail to live an exemplary selfless life.
The truth is my Christian witness is not primarily through the quality of my life, but through my testimony of God's undeserved grace in my life. God has brought me through some extremely difficult times, and redeemed my life from the pit of depression and hopelessness. Some one who looks at my life will not be overwhelmed by my exemplary living, although they may note some counter-cultural practices or some things I avoid. But they will see evidence of God's grace if they examine closely and they might hear about his faithfulness. Without God's grace and Christ's sacrifice for me, I would still be back in that pit, and might not even be alive today.
Do I need to return to something like my kindergarten zeal about sharing the gospel and testifying of God's grace? While threatening others with hell-fire is probably not the right approach, I think I should take more of an active interest in evangelism, and consider how that would be expressed in my life, as guided by the Holy Spirit. And I should draw from the depths of Christ's love for me, to find the love and grace to give to others, until it becomes like a neverending stream of life-giving water flowing out of me.