Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…1 Peter 3:15

“What is this car going to do next?  O boy, here they come.  Great, no signal…thanks buddy.”  Sound familiar?  If you have driven on the freeway there is a lost art of driving that has taken a backseat…merging.  Merging can be a complex maneuver combining just the right momentum, awareness of your surroundings, and an often forgotten element: common courtesy.  If you miss any one of these elements: at best it results in frustrating other drivers and at worst could involve a crash and something more serious.

Sharing our faith can be a lot like merging.  We need to have momentum to engage with others, an awareness of our surroundings and common courtesy.  There is grace when we miss one of these elements.  G-d continues to pick us up if we crash and sends us out to try again. He wants us to learn from our mistakes and keep trying.  After all, this is the work to which Hehas called us.  As such, we receive all we need to accomplish it from Him.

The first element is momentum.  The tricky thing with merging is that it is moredifficult to do when the one merging is going too slow.  On the other hand it still takes some careful navigating to be successful at higher speeds.  One of the most difficult parts of witnessing is the first step.  It’s time to get moving.  Begin right where you are and take that step, trusting that you’ve been given everything you need for this step, at this time, with this person.

Peter tells us to always be ready to “give a reason” for our hope that is within us.  This is not a command to have a polished testimony prepared or to have all the answers, but an instruction to willingly share our life in Christ with others.  Don’t let fear hold you back or keep you from moving forward.  Whether it’s an “eighteen-wheeler” type person or a “compact car” type person, hit the accelerator, get moving and merge your life to bring hope to theirs.

The second element is awareness.  Without awareness one can have all the momentum needed and still carelessly run into someone.  It’s fascinating how Jesus dealt with people so differently. With some He turns tables and with others He speaks gently.   He was aware of who He was, but was also acutely aware of the people He encountered – their dreams, fears, brokenness and their need – because He lived and walked among them.

You have heard it said that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”  That’s true.  Being involved with people and getting to know them creates more awareness of how you will reach each person.  There is not a one-size approach to people.  What fun would that be?  Become more aware of how God has designed you to interact with others.  Let that awareness connect with people at their point of need, and watch a beautiful friendship emerge as a result of your obedience.

The third element is courtesy.  We could also insert Peter’s words of “gentleness and respect.”  We all may have experienced the following type of driver: They execute the merge, perhaps even skillfully; and although there is enough awareness to merge, there seems to be an element of unconcern for those around them.  Jesus took great care to present the good news of the Kingdom, but He didn’t force people to know Him, be with Him or believe Him.  He invited.  He still invites people today with gentleness and respect, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (Rev. 3:20 – emphasis mine).  In our zeal to win people to Jesus let’s remember they are people and not products of our piety.  Be patient and walk in step with the Spirit.  Besides, you’ll find it’s more fun that way and you’ll gain a friend.

Now as I drive everyday I don’t even think about the elements of merging anymore.  It just comes naturally.  The same will be true the more you engage people with the hope that you have in Jesus.   Sometimes by sharing a story, at other times a prayer, but often just listening can be our most profound witness.  Jesus never intended for this to be a goofy or awkward thing.  Keep “merging” and it will soon become an every day part of your journey as you walk with Him.

Think it Over:Reflect on a time when someone wanted you to believe something and made you feel uncomfortable – i.e. salesman.  What was the greatest source of discomfort?   Did you feel valued?  Cared for? Listened to?  How could things learned from this negative experience be applied to sharing “the hope you have” in a positive way?

Live it Out: Most of us have had at least one uncomfortable experience sharing our faith.  Some will say it doesn’t come “natural” (Note: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it will not create discomfort.  Take childbirth for example – wow!); others have not flexed their “merging” muscles enough.

Pray for an opportunity today to speak a kind word to someone you encounter.  Begin a conversation, start a relationship.  If you’re feeling bold, pray out loud with a stranger.  Find an opportunity to share “the hope you have” with someone G-d places in your life.

In Other Words:

“A ship is best steered when it’s moving.” – Unknown

“Don’t make it complicated, it may get there on its own.” – D. Allen

“If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means keep moving.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“He who waits until circumstances completely favor his undertaking will never accomplish anything.” – Martin Luther

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