A simple but spiritual question you can ask anyone
"So is it true you're into black powder shooting?" I asked Brian. He is a big man with a long goatee and a shaved head -- an intimidating presence to say the least. On top of that, he doesn't offer up a lot of information about himself. We have recently been joined as extended family, and I faced a choice -- try to get to know him or just let it go and move on.
I decided for the former, not because it was the easiest thing to do but because taking Jesus seriously means following him in entering other people's worlds. Theologians call that being "incarnational." So I had heard Brian is into black powder shooting and historical mountain man reenactments, and that's what I inquired about.
Brian's demeanor immediately changed. For the next half hour we talked about flintlock rifles, primitive camping, berry moonshine, outdoor toilets, canvas tents, tomahawk throwing, and a host of other things. By the time we parted ways, I was taking notes on where Brian and his wife and their friends would be putting on upcoming historical mountain man exhibitions. The more I asked about Brian's hobby, the more fascinated I became. And to my delight, I found I liked Brian a lot.
This illustrates a principle I find to be indispensable in Christian living: be genuinely interested in someone.
Christians are called to be disciples who make disciples. And to do that, we have to relate to people in a genuine way. This is different from listening impatiently to someone only until we can pounce on our chance to share the gospel. That's not love; it's manipulation. The Great Commandment to love requires that we are interested in people for their own sakes. And that means exploring what someone cares about or likes to do.
Therefore, I have found that one of the most important questions in the Christian life is:
"What do you like to do when you're not working?"
When getting to know little six-year-old Ruby at the same wedding dinner, I asked, "So what are your favorite things to do?" Within three minutes we were talking about dancing, singing, and sparkly shoes. I didn't care what the subject was. I got a kick out of seeing her face light up.
I got the same kick out of seeing Brian's face light up when we began talking about black powder shooting. Now I want to say something important. I haven't always been that interested in people. The more deeply I am formed in Jesus' character, the more my palate changes, and I take great pleasure in seeing someone's face heart warm and face light up.
I was genuinely fascinated with Brian's mountain man hobby. It sounds like a ton of fun. But I have found that when someone starts talking about his or her passion, it's almost impossible not to get interested. Passion is contagious.
What we are talking about here is sharing in the ways of God. He is the creator of all things, yet he shows interest in each of us. And it's not manipulative interest, going only so far as to get us to bend to his will. It's genuine interest, for genuine interest is the fuel of agape love.
How can you engage a conversation and steer it away from yourself and toward him/her? Maybe you'll get a rush out of seeing someone's face light up. If so, you have experienced God.