I sat with my friend on a straw mat under the shade of a tree in his village. There were the usual distractions. Chickens, goats, sheep, and his younger children all took turns interrupting us. But we had been meeting like this for years. I learned his language and culture. We have read key parts of the Old Testament and portions of the Gospel. And my friend is willing to keep meeting and discussing God’s Word.
Now, here we were, looking at the essential question of what does God’s Word consider sin and what happens to someone who becomes a follower of Jesus? I began reading from Galatians 5:19 about the “acts of the sinful nature.” He was surprised by the list, even though we had talked about some of these things before. “You mean the Gospel says drunkenness, sexual immorality, impurity—those are sins?”
In his mind, he had always associated this list of sinful behaviors with “Christians.” His cultural worldview placed all Westerners and all Western behavior as “Christian,” including colonialism, slavery, the Crusades, and the general behavior of Westerners. He still was struggling to connect his perception of Christians with the words in the Holy Scriptures that said people who behaved that way “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Then I introduced the notion of what happens when God’s Spirit is able to work on the inside of a person’s heart and mind when they give their life to God in the name of the Messiah. I began reading from Galatians 5:22 about the fruit of the Spirit. As we went through the list he got more and more excited and then blurted out, “Well, that’s what I see in you!”
I said, “What you are seeing in me is the Spirit of God producing these changes. I can’t do those good works on my own. I am not righteous. But it is like I have been born a new person now and God working in me begins to produce this fruit.”
His response was, “What you are doing is the fastest way for us to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” This took me aback. I had now lived in his country for 15 years. I had seen virtually no “visible” fruit in the way we Western believers tend to count fruit. How could he possibly be saying this is the fastest way?
He went on, “I was taught to be afraid of people like you. But you and your team have come here, lived among us, and completely intertwined your lives with ours. You are like a living book. What we can’t read for ourselves, we see in you. Then we can tell others what we see and they tell others. So, it is the fastest way!”
This is the impact of the Gospel!