“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” (2 Cor. 2:15) We have been in Tigak language & culture study now for nearly three months, and it is tempting to feel like we are still waiting for our “real ministry” to begin. It is tempting to feel like we just need to get through language & culture study as quickly as possible so that we can start doing what we came here to do.
However, I am becoming convinced every day that we are here that our lives are communicating Christ right now. As believers, we have been raised to new life with Christ, and as we live our new lives of sacrificial love in dependance on Him and yielded to His Holy Spirit, spiritual fruit is being born right now. Paul teaches us in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (5:22-23)
Though the expression of this fruit may take on a cultural form, the fruit itself transcends culture and is being evidenced in our lives wherever we live in the world.
This is highly significant in terms of our perception of our ministry value right now. When I am connected to Christ in an intimate way, walking with Him, seeking Him and living my new resurrection life in Him, it has an effect on how I relate with people without me even consciously realizing it. This is encouraging to know and it is true whether you are in Papua New Guinea or the United States of America.
I remember one time back in the States when I worked for our local public school district as a substitute custodian, a co-worker of mine made a comment about how I didn’t seem to be worried about money like everyone else we worked with. It was surprising to me that he said that. Its not that I was trying “not to worry about money.” After all, Beth & I were newly married and certainly needed money. It is also true that during that time in particular we were trusting the Lord to provide for our needs as we sought out various employment opportunities. As a result, the peace we had with Him and being sure of His provision must have evidenced itself in contrast to those around us, without us even trying.
Christ is being communicated in our lives when we are connected to Him whether we are aware of it or not. We can be encouraged by this truth. Even when we don’t have speaking opportunities in the lives of others, we all have the capacity to bear spiritual fruit in our relationships as we walk by faith and live in dependance on Him.
At the same time, it should be a challenge to us to consider that when we are neglecting an intimate walk with Christ, when we are not depending on Him, when we are not laying hold of our new freedom from sin’s control and yielding to His Holy Spirit, when are choosing to live for ourselves, it also communicates. Neglecting to go to the Lord in prayerful dependance, neglecting to grow in knowing Him through His word and isolating ourselves from deep, intimate, grace-oriented community with other believers has an impact on our lives and how we reflect Christ to the world around us.
Speaking of communicating Christ to the world around us, its hard to do so if we have little to no regular contact or actual relationships with unbelievers. It is amazing how easy it is to overload our schedules with so many “extra curricular” church activities that we have no time to even build relationships with non-Christians! I’ve been there many times.
In any case, Christian character, the by-product of Spirit-yielded dependance on Christ, is vital to serving Him. It is vital to clear communication of our message; it is vital to clear communication of our Savior. Fruit bearing is vital to cross bearing.
Culturally, we are Americans. If you compared how we live with the way the Tigak people live you would see a difference, not just in the area of how much stuff we have versus how much they have. We arrange our houses differently. We eat differently. We structure our days differently. These are a few examples of the many ways that we are different. Within our American cultural grid that we live, we are walking with Christ, and spiritual fruit is being manifested, even though much of the time it is taking a cultural form that is different than that of Papua New Guinea. This fruit is being used by God as a testimony before the people, whether we or they understand what is going on.
Take our family relationships, for example. Our family lives in a fishbowl. We live on a main thoroughfare through the village, our house, though on stilts, is still low enough for people to see in, and because of the heat, we have many large screen windows which means that people can hear us all the time. Our lives are continually on display. The fact that I do not lose my temper with my children communicates. The fact that Beth & I speak well of each other, hang out together, laugh together, spend time together, communicates. The fact that we are not stingy with our time or practical help with the people communicates. Though these examples are merely forms, there is spiritual fruit behind them that communicates.
This fruit is the result of simply walking with Christ. Every single moment we walk with our Savior, our lives are communicating Him to those around us.
“…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) As a practical expression of love, we are also currently engaged in several specific things, during this time of language & culture study, that we praying the Lord uses to show the Tigak people on our island that we genuinely care for them. For one, something as simple as building genuine relationships with them communicates that we are not about using them, or steam rolling them. We show them respect, we care about the details of their lives, their cares and concerns, as well as their joys. We don’t look at the people, or treat them, as projects. We are building genuine friendships with the Tigak people in our village.
We also meet basic first aid needs as they arise. People from all over our island come to us for pain relievers and cleaning their sores. While we have our cautions about people becoming dependent on us for these type of things, this practical sacrifice on our part of meeting some simple felt needs such as these goes a long way with the people. We hope to train others to do this work, as well. In the future, we will also be starting a literacy program that will aid not just our island, but also many other Tigak villages with low literacy rates.
Of course, we believe that the greatest act of love that we can ever show anyone in this life is introducing them to Jesus Christ. While we hope that our lives are now reflecting Him as we learn the Tigak language & culture, we also cannot wait for the day when we can clearly communicate the good news using words. We pray that the lives we live in their presence today will be used by God to show them that what we have come to teach is worth hearing.
“Out of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, the other ninety-nine will read the Christian.” -D.L. Moody