I’ve frequently said that our greatest witness as Christians is when we’re caring for the poor, visiting the prisoners, tending the sick. When we take these things seriously, others can’t help but see the power of the Gospel.
Recently, the faithful witness of some Christians in Malawi turned the head of a British journalist and atheist who traveled to Africa before Christmas. Writing in The Times of London online, Matthew Parris said that these Christians not only proved to him that Africa needs God, but also have challenged his atheistic convictions.
After visiting a charity that provides water pumps to rural communities, Parris noticed that many of the organization’s African leaders were strong Christians who gently demonstrated their faith in quiet conversation and action. They reminded him of the Christians he knew when he was a young boy living in Africa with his family.
These Christians, he recalls, were a “different” kind of people whose faith seemed to give them what he describes as a “liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world, [and] a directness in their dealings with others.”
If this isn’t a winsome demonstration of faith, I don’t know what is!
The Christian missionaries Parris met when he returned to Africa in his twenties had a similar impact on him. Wherever missionaries lived, he wrote, “something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to.” They had broken through what he calls “crushing tribal groupthink.” They see themselves as individuals who stand in direct relationship to God-not as subservient subordinates who must kowtow to tyrants like Robert Mugabe.
Parris is sure that Christian faith has something to do with this. And of course he’s right! He says he has, “become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone won’t do it. Education and training alone will not do.”
“In Africa,” he writes, “Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. And the rebirth is real. The change is good.”
Parris says that what he’s observed among Christians in Africa “confounds [his] ideological beliefs” and has “embarrassed [his] growing belief that there is no God.”
He had this to say about the Christians he met who were providing water pumps: “Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.”
Here is an atheist who gets it: Worldview matters! How you see the world, what you believe about where we come from and where we are going, will affect how you live.
When you understand that every human being is made in God’s image, and that God Himself died on a cross for sinners, people will see you ministering to prisoners. They will see you feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
Or, like Matthew Parris, they may even witness you bringing water pumps to rural villages in Africa. They will see Christ before their eyes.