Live such a good life that people will wonder what makes you different, and they’ll want what you have: Jesus.
Variants of this message have been reiterated to me throughout my lifetime in the church. It’s a critical component of evangelism, echoing verses like, “Live such good lives among the pagans that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV) and, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5:8).
Yet in my experience I’ve found that this essential truth can oh-so-easily morph into a counterfeit message: Seem so perfect—so ideal, so sinless, so got-it-all-together—that people will wonder how you’re so flawless and will want what you have: Jesus.
Your real story
That kind of mindset? It’s dangerous. It pressures us to hide away our faults and failures, to hold back negative emotions or struggles, and to present a version of Christianity that’s simply not the bona fide gospel. Yet in reality, a façade of perfection is actually off-putting for most people who are well acquainted with their own struggles and can’t relate to a super-human, got-it-all-together life.
As I wrote in my Bible study Shine Your Light, when it comes to sharing our testimony with others,
Our goal isn’t to show people how good we are—it is to reveal how good Jesus is. And this means inviting people into our real story—our story that includes struggles and sin, faults and failings, but also the joy of redemption, forgiveness, and grace! Rather than aiming to be fake, perfect-life people, instead we live as satisfied, still-a-bit-broken sinners who proclaim Jesus’ transformative grace. . . . You most accurately proclaim the gospel when you’re real and authentic with others, willing to share hurts, questions, and struggles along with assurances, victories, and joys.
Beyond "before and after"
“Almost seven years ago, I was in my deepest cycle of bulimia, even though I was a student ministry intern and a biblical studies and ministry major at a Bible college,” describes Anne Wilson, who today is on staff at a church. “Although I’m now fully recovered from bulimia, I still deal with body dysmorphic thoughts and an intense struggle with body image.