Note: The following is an excerpt from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. I have found this book particularly impacting as I figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus in everyday life. (Read my review.) In this particular chapter, Show and Tell, Jeff explains that followers of Jesus need to live in ways that show others Jesus and tell others about Jesus. Here is a vivid picture of what it means to be a gospel metaphor.
– Darryl Eyb
Showing Jesus in Everyday Life
We are blessed by God to bless others. Physical displays of what God is like show his glory in tangible form.
Every time I describe this, I am reminded of a brunch Jayne and I hosted with some members of our missional community one Sunday morning at our house. Many of our neighbors who didn’t attend church gatherings were with us, and the conversation started to steer toward what was good and bad in our neighborhood. At one point, someone brought up the man who lived on the opposite corner from our house. He had found a way to get a special “Parking by permit only” sign put in front of his home. We lived in the city, where most people didn’t have driveways, and parking was hard to come by. The problem was that there was no way for anyone else to get a permit. It seems he had some connections. The other problem was that there was no lighting by the sign, and a large tree limb hung in front of it, making it hard for drivers looking for parking spots to see the sign.
Of course, we all knew not to park there, but our friends from outside the neighborhood often were unaware – until they went out to their cars and found notes glued to their windshields. The notes said: “Can’t you read? It’s obvious you can’t or you would not have been so dumb as to park here.” Then the notes went on to describe what would happen if they parked there again. It was horrible! And many didn’t know how to get the notes off their windshields without damaging the glass.
Not surprisingly, the conversation soon turned so negative that one person said: “I know he was in the military. That man is a trained killer. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t bodies buried in the cement in his basement.
I had to stop it.
“Hey, everyone, I think that’s probably enough,” I said. “Since he’s not here to defend himself, it might be better that we stop.” He wasn’t present because he wasn’t a friend of anyone in the room, but the main reason was because he was overseeing a local church’s worship gathering that morning. The fact that everyone knew he was a pastor didn’t help in our mission of representing Jesus to the neighbors in that room. They had a very poor image of Christians as a result of his behavior.
I continued: “Besides, I don’t think any of us really know him that well. Jayne and I are just getting to know him. We just had him over for dinner this past Friday night, and we found him to be a very nice man.”
As I said that, I could see the surprise on their faces and feel their skepticism. People were likely thinking: “What in the world are you doing, Jeff? Why would you befriend that man?”
I’m not sure if you know his story, but as we learned more about him, it helped me understand why he does what he does. Please hear me, I don’t think what he is doing is good. It’s wrong for sure. But I’ve found that hurt people hurt people. And he has been really hurt throughout his life. Again, I won’t justify what he has done. I don’t like it either. But since he’s not here for us to talk to, maybe we shouldn’t talk about him anymore. In fact, I am praying for a day when he will be with us, asking us to forgive him for what he has done to hurt so many of us.”
I became an advocate for a man who couldn’t advocate for himself. I became an advocate for a man who deserved the judgment of that room. I did what God does for me in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is our Advocate. He is currently advocating for me in a place I cannot be – before God the Father. And though I deserve condemnation for my sin, he speaks a better word of condemnation over me as a sone of God.
We are called to be gospel pictures, gospel metaphors. In advocating for this man, I was trying to present a picture of God.
I finished and the conversation shifted. I could tell some felt uncomfortable and others were just confused.
Amy was one of them. She lived next door to this man and had become a good friend of ours over the years, but she hadn’t trusted Jesus. She pulled me aside the next day and asked: “What were you thinking yesterday, Jeff? Everyone knows how evil he is. We’ve all been treated terribly by him. I don’t get it. Why would you do that?”
Read my review of Gospel Fluency.
Jeff Vanderstelt is online at jeffvanderstelt.com.
Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, © 2017, pp. 188-190. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.