Who Told You About Jesus?

The startling difference between a personal faith and a private faith

Sarah Freyermuth

What drives some Christians to talk about their faith while others keep it to themselves? One answer may lie in the difference between a personal faith and a private faith.

A recent conversation with my grandfather got me thinking about that difference.

I invited him to attend a Christian film festival with me. We listened to a man speak about the importance of personally choosing to receive Christ's love and forgiveness. I prayed silently for my grandfather and where he stood with God. Not two seconds later, Grandpa leaned over and mentioned he had already done that.

Stunned and excited, my mind raced with questions. When had this happened? Why hadn't he told me? But despite my questions, he volunteered very few details.

"It's private," he replied.

It made me wonder why the most important decision of his life would be dubbed "private," off-limits for conversation. His eternal destination had changed and yet, he had kept that exciting news to himself.

Personal Faith Not Intended to be Concealed

The Bible teaches that a person becomes a Christian by individual choice, not by inheritance, default or good works.

Although a Christian's decision is personal, it was not meant to be kept private.

Jesus commands Christians to not only grow in their own faith, but to pass it on to others, starting with those around them (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).

Yet only 19% of those who identify themselves as Christians are strongly committed to talk to others about Jesus, according to 2007 research commissioned by Christianity Today International and Zondervan Publishers.

Contradiction Created When We Keep Quiet

For those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, we first heard the gospel from someone else. At the times when we conceal our faith, we create a contradiction.

Why are we unwilling to do for someone else what was done for us?

It took a friend's boldness for me to hear about Jesus as a teenager. Had she not spoken up about the change she had experienced in her own life, I might never have known about God's love for me. Similarly, my grandmother talked to my grandfather about her faith.

When we keep quiet with others in our life, we rob them of the priceless opportunity we were given.

We need to identify what it is that holds us back from talking about that which is most important. It might be our present-day American culture of individualism, the growing do-it-yourself faith mentality, or simply our fears and reservations.

Once we understand why we keep our faith private, we can intentionally make efforts to tell others about what God offers to them. What started with our own personal choice can become an opportunity for someone else's.

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