The title of this blog is a little funny isn't it? I thought so too, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it makes perfect sense in todays culture. I can imagine this title may make less sense to those from a different generation than I am from, but I think it's important that those it doesn't make sense to keep reading.
Twenty, forty, fifty years ago it was assumed that everyone was a Christian (at least along the Bible Belt in the US) and that it came as a shock when someone made a statement that they were not. However, almost the exact opposite is true today.
One of my biggest fears when being thrown into a new group of people is how on earth it will come out that I am a Christian. I'm sure some of you reading this have had similar feelings.
What will I say when someone invites me to a party where the sole purpose is to get drunk? What will I say when a girl friend of mine starts asking me about my previous sex-partners? What will I say when someone makes a joke about Christianity or uses the name of Jesus in vain?
Honestly, what on earth do you say?
I write this post not from a place with all the answers, but from a place of trying to help start a dialog among Christians about how to "come out" in front of their friends, coworkers, and acquaintances with grace and love all while be unashamed of the gospel.
College and high school years are a time of planting and uprooting friendships. I'm not saying you won't have the same best friends that you had in middle school till the day you die, but I am saying that during these years, these people won't always be your closest or most frequent community and because of that, we are forced to plant roots in the sometimes brief communities we find ourselves in.
For example, since starting college I have had my dorm community, my major/classes community, my campus ministry community, my first apartment community, my second studio community, my prayer group community, my church community, my first summer internship community, my third studio community, my second major community, my second internship community, my study abroad community, my church abroad community, my mission trip community, my sorority community, my sorority Bible study community, my service trip community... oh my goodness so many communities. That's 18 new communities that I can think of just off the top of my head and I'M NOT EVEN DONE WITH COLLEGE YET!
I can't express to you how much of a toll all these new communities can have on a girl. Yes, these eighteen communities are all opportunities for me to find like-minded people and people that I am able to minister in some way to, but in every single community, I in some way have to "come out" as a Christian.
But "coming out" as a Christian isn't only something you have to do in new friend groups, I've heard sisters share with me how much of a struggle it has been for them to go back home after finding Jesus in college and have to "come out" to their high school friends. Often times, this news doesn't land on loving or excited ears. Some rejection is almost inevitable in this situation, but let me tell you, ITS NOT YOUR FAULT. The Bible tells us that the we are the aroma of Christ.
"For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life." 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (HCSB)
When the aroma of Christ is upon you, you smell of death to some and life to others. Those who are smelling death are convicted by your presence because they can smell the death that is waiting for them and this makes them not want to be around you. For others, you are the aroma of life (and love and peace and joy and hope) because they can smell salvation.
So how do you do it? How do you come out as a Christian in a world where your aroma smells of death to some people you have to come in contact with every single day?
Here are 5 simple things you can do:
1. "Come out" on the first day.
Trust me, the longer you wait the harder it will be. This past summer I had an internship and knew I needed to find a way to share this massive part of my life on the first day (no, this doesn't mean I need to preach to the entire office with my entire testimony, but it does mean that I need to make it known that my faith is where my identity is). However, the day got busy and I didn't take the opportunity when someone asked me my interests because I was a little scared of what people would think of me (how crazy is that?). A week went by and finally it came out that one of the other interns was Muslim. He talked openly about his faith and others seemed to embrace and honor it. I began to be a little jealous of the support he was getting because I had never really been accepted when I spoke about my faith. After that, it became even harder to find the right moment because I didn't want to come across as though I was sharing my faith in opposition to his. Moral of the story, share you faith with people, give them the benefit of the doubt, and if they don't respond with love and acceptance, you're not the one with the issue. At the very least, don't deny your faith if you are asked. Don't be like Peter.
2. Don't hide your faith practices.
This one is really important if you live with people who don't know about your faith, but can also be important if you are in a group that's going out to eat frequently. For example, don't hide away in your room doing your Bible studies or praying. Be free to study in the common spaces just like you would a text book. Don't feel like you have to keep your Christian music turned down to a lower volume than the music you know your roommates listen to. These are all things I've struggled with in the past, but I've learned that for me, it's wasn't a matter of fearing that the other people would think I was being disrespectful, I was scared for them to see a part of my life that I wasn't sure they would respect. As far as going out to eat with friends, don't feel like you have to say a quick little prayer with your eyes open, if you pray before you meal, it's perfectly fine to silently bow your head and give thanks for your meal. You don't have to alert the entire table or ask them to join you, but you shouldn't without your thanks to God just because of the company you're in. Trust me, it will happen that someone will interrupt you and you might have an awkward moment here and there, but if anything, that gives you a direct opportunity to let them know you were praying for your food and boom— you've came out as a Christian.
3. Wear jewelry/clothing that reflects your faith.
I'll admit, I don't wear a cross around my neck, and in no way should you feel obligated to if it's not your thing, but jewelry can be a way to share your faith. For example, I often wear a ring on my left hand even though I'm not engaged. This isn't a purity ring, but I often get asked if I'm married. A purity ring can be a really great way to start a conversation about your relationship with God. Once, I heard a story about a guy who wore a necklace with a spoon as the pendant every day. You can imagine he got a million questions about why he wore this spoon. Every time someone asked, it opened the door for him to share his faith with them. A cross (or spoon?) around the neck isn't for everyone, but maybe there's something similar out there for you.
4. Be careful with what you say/take part in.
What we don't say can sometimes speak louder than what we say. I once had a conversation with someone on a study abroad trip where I shared this part of my life with them and they said, "I mean I kinda figured, you can just tell." I was stunned. How on earth did this person know I was a Christian? So I asked, "how did you know?" They replied, "Well you speak differently than everyone else. You don't ever cuss, or use foul language." I was honestly so confused because I don't think I've ever noticed someone "not cussing," but I guess the world does? Actions can speak louder than words right? I think the same thing is true for actions that you choose not to do. If you find yourself in a situation where people are drinking excessively or are doing other things that we know we should really stay away from, don't give in. Trust me, people notice what you don't do just as much as they notice what you do.
5. Share your weekend.
Asking people how their weekend was is a pretty common thing, if someone asks you, don't answer with a simple "good." Use this as an opportunity to share a little about your church and maybe about the community you have there. The more you share about your wonderfully loving community the better the chances are that they might want to join you one day in that community, and isn't that the point of us going out into the world anyway?
I hope some of these are useful for you as you try to navigate coming out to the world as a Christian! Let's walk in freedom as we embrace our faith and identity in Christ.
“True beauty emanates from a woman who boldly and unabashedly knows who she is in Christ.”