Friday, June 22, 2012

What Do You See?

Mr. Elwood P. Dowd is a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man. He is well-mannered and easy-going. He loves to pay compliments and invite people over to dinner - even people he has just met! He will just as quickly befriend a drunkard or an ex-con as anyone else. You might say he's never met a stranger! By his own admission, he believes every day is a beautiful day, and he has learned to find something pleasant in every situation. "I always have a wonderful time wherever I am, whomever I'm with," says Mr. Dowd.

Harvey © 1950 Universal StudiosIn short: he's crazy!

People think he's crazy not so much because he's always so pleasant (although perhaps that's a good enough reason nowadays!), but because whenever you meet him, the first thing Mr. Dowd wants to do is introduce you to his best friend, Harvey. Harvey is also very easy-going and soft-spoken. He and Mr. Dowd make an excellent pair.

Oh, and by the way, Harvey is a six foot tall white rabbit (six feet, three and a half inches, to stick to the facts).

And he's invisible.

At least, he's invisible to those who have never met him before. Elwood sees Harvey just as plainly as he sees anyone else, and Elwood's sister, Veta, must admit that she sometimes sees Harvey, too, though she struggles with whether he's real or not. Even the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Chumley, who begins as a staunch skeptic, eventually sees Harvey and desires a relationship with him after Mr. Dowd makes the introduction.

Similarly, we as Christians have been befriended by a God who seems to be invisible to those who have never met him. We know he is real because we have encountered him and seen him at work in our lives and in the world around us. I know how often God has proven himself to me by directing my paths and giving me his blessings! And though I'm sure he is active in others' lives as well, the old saying is true: "There is none so blind as him who will not see."
"Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened."
- Romans 1:20-21
We know God is real because he speaks to us and interacts with us. When Elwood recounts the story of the night Harvey first called him by name, I'm reminded of Abraham and Moses and others in the Bible who heard God calling them to be his servants. I'm reminded also of times in my life when I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit as God called me into a closer relationship and a more devoted service.

"God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 
- 1 Corinthians 1:9

"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."
- Ephesians 2:10

Harvey is not invisible to Elwood © 1950 Universal Studios
Harvey is not invisible to Elwood (James Stewart) © 1950 Universal Studios

Because he believes in Harvey, people look down on Mr. Dowd. They think they know better. But like Inspector Clouseau, Mr. Dowd is a good illustration of the principle that "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1b). I like the way Mr. Dowd explains it:
"Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be' - she always called me Elwood - 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."
That pleasantness lends itself to ministry. People are more likely to be receptive to what we have to say when we are kind and loving and easy to get along with. And just as Elwood shared Harvey with everyone he met, so if we know how God has shown himself to us and spoken to us and interacted with us - if we know what a friend we have in Jesus - then we should introduce others to him wherever we go.
"Harvey and I sit in the bars, have a drink or two, play the jukebox. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine, and they smile. And they're saying, 'We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fellow.' Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends. And they come over, and they sit with us, and they drink with us, and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do - their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates - all very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey, and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed."
Now I'm not saying we all need to be sitting in bars in hopes of meeting someone we can share the Gospel with (though I've heard of people who do), but I do think Mr. Dowd provides plenty of good reminders for us. For instance, we see that any place we go can be an opportunity to share our Friend with others. We see the importance of going where people are instead of waiting for them to come to us. We see that being real and being pleasant with people opens up doors. And we are reminded of the importance of listening to people so we can better relate to them where they are. Like Harvey, we are reminded that our God is bigger than any problem we may throw at him.

But the reason we share our Friend with others is not just so they will be impressed. I do hope people are impressed when they meet the Lord - I hope they're impressed by him as their eyes are opened to the ways he has revealed himself and his love - but this is about so much more than just impressing people. We expose ourselves to possible ridicule not just in hopes that we or our Lord will look good, but in hopes that others will also take the next step and befriend him, allowing him to save them, just as he has saved us.

"I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is the power God uses 
to save everyone who believes - to save the Jews first, and then to save non-Jews."
- Romans 1:16 (NCV)

So what do you see?

Do you see the invisible God? Do you see how he has touched your life and shared his love with you?

If so, then won't you join me in sharing him with the folks we meet? You don't have to beat anyone over the head. Just meet them where they are and look for opportunities to make the introduction.

It's crazy, I know, but that's all right!

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