Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
I recently read a piece about an Islamic convert to Christianity who withstood torture at the hands of Islamic radicals. It's an amazing story but it's not the one I want to focus on here. (That has to be the worst lede ever.)
In explaining his conversion, he said what made Christ intriguing to him was meeting Christians at college who seemed at peace and ready to forgive wrongs done to them. He said their openness to sacrifice shocked, surprised, and inspired him to begin reading about Christ. He didn't go into the particulars about what he specifically saw in Christians and it would likely make for boring reading. It may have been something as simple as forgiving gossip or a harsh word. But it brought home to me the importance of little things in conversion stories.
I read a lot of conversion stories. I've watched every episode of The Journey Home on EWTN. Kind of a conversion geek, I'll admit. Seriously, Marcus Grodi would have a restraining order against me if he knew what a fan I was. But I digress. So often, converts mention that someone said or performed a loving gesture or someone's sense of peace intrigued them. And it's not that those folks immediately converted because of it. But a seed was planted. Sometimes it's a grandparent. Sometimes it's a friend of a friend. It can be anyone. But the seed is planted. And it seems to me that as Christians we're all responsible for spreading those seeds.
When we speak of being a Christian, it's easy to focus on the big questions like "Would I die for Christ?" but the question should also be "Will I live for Christ at home, at the mall, when the kids are driving me crazy, at work every day?" In short, be a good Christian because people are watching.
This is kind of weird but it's true. Whenever I take my five children out with me I always try to smile no matter what's going on. I probably look insane at time but I try to smile. It's because I know people are watching. And I never wanted to be the reason someone chooses not to have children or maybe just another child. Honestly, one guy I used to hang out with on the softball field told me that his wife wanted to have a third child. He said he told her he wasn't sure they could handle it. And she said, "Matt has five and he handles it. And he's an idiot."
True. But that's the thing. We never know the effect we're having.
I interviewed an amazing woman named Heather Mercer for my book "Faith Under Fire" which is (shameless plug upcoming) available at Franciscan Media. Heather was a missionary who was kidnapped by Islamic radicals in Afghanistan just before 9-11. Her story is exciting and inspiring. But she wasn't always a serious Christian. Someone invited her to a Christian concert when she was in high school. And it changed her life. Now, Heather has helped to bring Christ to thousands in the Middle East. But it only happened because someone simply invited her to a Christian concert.
I'm reminded of that great poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot.
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool.
In that poem, he's despairing of his place in the world. But I am willing to be a fool for Christ or an idiot. If I can move someone toward Christ it would be a great victory.
We can all see that the world is a dangerous place for Christians right now. Terribly dangerous. In many parts of the world we're hunted down for slaughter on a daily basis. In the west, we're seeing our liberties stripped from us. And yes, dark clouds are rolling in. But there are men and women who are standing up for their faith against oppression and violence. I don't think we've seen the full effect of their example.
As a pharmacist stands up for his right not to sell abortifacients, the world is watching. As a football coach gracefully defends his right to pray after a game, the world sees. As the Little Sisters of the Poor stand up for the faith, the world notices. It may not seem like it but they are. I believe seeds are being planted. Souls have been stirred. And maybe they ask questions about what it is that motivates these people to stand up for their faith. They wonder what is it that gives them that peace that no matter what the world brings against them they stand strong?
So go. Act like a Christian. The world is watching.