Mark 5:18-19 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
One thing about Jesus was that He wasn’t predictable. Often when he healed someone He told them not to tell anybody, but here He explicitly tells the man to tell his family what had happened to him. I’ve thought about this a good bit over the years, because witnessing is fundamental to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8) The conclusion I have come to is that during Jesus’ earthly ministry there were times when being mobbed was a problem for Him, but this man was from an area that wasn’t as central to His ministry. I think another factor is that this man had no personal pride left, after how he had lived while demon possessed. People who knew him or knew of him – and that was probably just about everybody – knew him as a dangerous, raving maniac. That made the very fact that he could give a clear, logical statement of what had happened to him an impressive testimony to the power of God and the person of Jesus Christ. He didn’t need to know or explain theology, he just had to say, “That is what I was and this is what I am now.” The thing is, every true Christian has a before/after story, whether they realize it or not. Knowing God and walking in obedience to Him makes a difference in your life, and people are going to notice. Not many have a change as dramatic as this man, but change is part of the definition of being born again. We don’t need to go around “bragging about” how bad we used to be, but we need to be honest, with ourselves and with others, that we didn’t deserve God’s salvation; it’s all grace. When we are clear on that, people will indeed ask us how we can be as we are, and we can tell them. (1 Peter 3:15) This is far and away the most effective personal evangelism.
I’m in an awkward situation in this area, because as a Missionary Kid I’ve always been considered one of the “good guys.” The thing is, my sins, though not as obvious, were just as real as those of anyone else. Just recently I was talking with a younger believer and he said he had trouble imagining me like that. As I said, I’m not to brag about my sins, but I am never to think I’ve either earned or inherited my “ticket to heaven.” That is always and only because of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:8-9) In Japan that is further complicated by the fact that I am a Caucasian, and people seem to have trouble grasping that everything I have spiritually is available to them. Racial/cultural identity is very strong in Japan. As a pastor, therefor, I seek to help the believers be willing to share their own stories, but again there is a cultural barrier. Japanese can be intensely private, and tend to maintain emotional distance even as physical distance can be problematical in such a densely populated country. The only real answer is for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts to enable them to open up, so that is what I pray for. I certainly can’t make it happen on my own!
Father, thank You for bringing this up. There was an example just yesterday of someone failing to share both a need they had and a blessing they had received, because they considered them personal. That’s not the pattern You have shown us for Your family. I pray that You would give us courage to open up to You more through opening up to those around us, so that Your grace may flow unhindered through us for the blessing of many, and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!