Not Knowing I Was Dead

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (Romans 1:1-2, ESV)

In my apartment building, having a dog proves challenging, having a small dog even more so. Since she refuses to learn how to use and flush a toilet, we’re forced to slap the leash on, carry her down three flights of stairs, and hustle her off to a small patch of ground dedicated to doggy calls. Everything else is concrete—and I do mean everything.

In the past, I did my best to avoid actual human contact—other than the practiced smile, jerky nod, and occasional mumbled phrase. I’m introverted, I would think to myself. That was enough of an excuse for me. Plus, most of the other people in the apartment building seemed happy enough that I had the same disposition as them. Thus, the trip to the small patch of dirt involved much hustle and avoidance, a carefully orchestrated dash.

Then, it happened—well, he happened. You know the type of guy I mean. He was not interested in my attempts at momentary eye flicking in his direction or the head turn away from him. He didn’t care about body language. He had a mission, and that mission meant speaking with me—on purpose.

After a few moments of small talk, this man from Africa hit me with it: he asked if I knew Jesus. My first thought, of course, was one of indignation. How could he not know that I followed Christ? How could he not know that I worked on a Christian website as an editor? How could he miss what had to be so obvious?

None of that came out. Instead, I calmly explained to him that I was serious about my faith—serious enough to avoid contact with anyone in my apartment complex or to share Christ or to mention anything about Jesus whatsoever outside of my circle of Christian friends. See, that’s serious.

And that compared completely favorably to this guy’s story. After all, he had felt the call of God, hopped on a plane from Africa to America with no place to stay or money, and had been publically sharing his faith with every person he met as a missionary. He lived day to day on the grace of God with all his needs met exactly when they needed to be. He preached, prayed, loved, suffered, all for the glory of God.

What impacted me the most that day is that this faithful brother was called from Africa to America—the very place where I, a Christ follower, live. Perhaps God wanted to shame me for my apathy and my fear. Perhaps He wanted to encourage me. Either way, I realized out there on that tiny patch of dirt how dead I’d been: if I’d been set apart by and for the gospel of God, I had no choice but to share that.

You don’t realize you’re spiritually dead and unfruitful until you see it for yourself. I saw my own death with the help of a brother from Africa. Maybe that’s something you need to realize too.

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