In 1997 Tony Campolo wrote Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God. In the book, Campolo discusses several areas in which Christians could be better witnesses to their faith in Jesus Christ by thinking clearer and presenting the Gospel in a more responsible way. In this interesting conclusion to the book (pages 271-274), he offers these additional thoughts.
It’s one thing for the world to reject Jesus because the people in secular society consider the gospel to be ridiculous. It is quite another thing for the world to reject the gospel because Christians are an embarrassment to God. The Bible warns us against conducting ourselves so that people end up rejecting Jesus, not because of who He is but because of stupid things we do and say. Hopefully, this book will help us to recognize and stop doing those things that embarrass God and turn people away from following Jesus.
However, even as I try to address those concerns in this book, I do so with just a little ambivalence. I am well aware that some of the great saints of the Church have been people whom the world viewed as embarrassments. St. Francis of Assisi has to be the prime example of this. That medieval saint readily referred to himself as a jester in the court of the King of kings, and his followers had no problem calling themselves “Fools for Christ.”
I recall being at a gathering of sophisticated scholars at the faculty club of an Ivy League university where we were engaged in heavy talk about religion. As I tried to impress my cynical audience with the reasonableness of Christianity, I made a joke of a man who I felt rightfully deserved their derision. I let them know that I didn’t think much of that guy who holds up the sign with the Bible reference on it at televised football games, and that to me, this man’s attempt to do evangelism was ridiculous and embarrassing. I remember saying, “You can’t dismiss us evangelicals by equating us all with that ridiculous guy who holds up signs with Bible verses on them, just when it’s time to kick the extra point. That guy’s idea of an effective witness for the gospel is to hold up a verse like John 1:12 (or John 3:16). He thinks people are going to become Christians by seeing his sign on TV.”
When I finished my mocking statement, one of the scholars sitting at the table pulled his pipe out of his mouth and said, “Interesting that you should mention that. Two years ago I was watching the Super Bowl, and just before halftime, the Dallas Cowboys scored a touchdown. As the Cowboys got set to kick the extra point, the man to whom you just referred held up a sign citing that exact same verse—John 1:12. During the halftime break, I got our old family Bible off the shelf and turned to that verse. Lying between the pages were some notes about that very verse that had been written by my mother a long time ago. I read over her notes and was reminded of many things I had once believed about Jesus Christ that had been left behind in my intellectual journey. I reflected on those things and there and then, during the halftime of the Super Bowl, I gave my life to Christ.”
Score one point for a “fool for Christ.” Strike one down on me for my readiness to put down a brother in Christ who was trying in his own way to preach the gospel. You never know what’s going to touch people’s lives. The moment you are sure that you know what are the acceptable and the unacceptable ways to share Jesus with the world, you can count on being brought down by something that humbles you and shows you how wrong you are. (continued…)
John 1:9-12 — The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
1 Corinthians 4:10 — We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!
2 Timothy 4:2 — Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
O Lord, let me not live to be useless.
Strengthen my desire to work and speak and think for you.