The Art of Engaging Others

Earlier this afternoon, I stumbled across a 2-part interview with Steven Garber, the director of Washington Institute and author of The Fabric of Faithfulness.  I encourage you to read the full-length interview, which can be found here: Part 1Part 2.  How refreshing it was to read what he had to say!  Below is one quote from the 2-part series –

“The first rule of engagement is always to be excellent at our work, whatever it is. As students, as professors, as staff – if we are not known as people of true integrity, then whatever we believe will be seen as irrelevant to the common good. Integrity is a rich word, with meaning for relationships as well as responsibilities. The hardly-interested student has a hard time persuading the professor about the importance of honest faith; the laggardly professor will not win the respect of colleagues or students. But from the position of real integrity, we can talk about ideas, and the reality that ideas have legs. Sometimes in some places, people are deaf to meaningful conversations about anything. But that is more rare than the rule. Most people can be engaged by an honest question, asked by an honest person.”

– Steven Garber

Wow.  Your work, your academic studies- your daily, visible, lived-out faith – has the potential to be a witness to people.  Life is messy.  Yet if people can see us living for Christ in the midst of that often imperfect, sometimes mistake-filled mess, needful of God’s grace and never self-sufficient.. there is a power in that.  I think that many people want desperately to believe in authenticity.  Christians have the potential to live authentically in whatever capacity God gives them, whether studies, work or otherwise.  Take this other quote by Mr. Garber –

“When meat rots, we don’t blame the meat. Rather we ask, “Why wasn’t it salted?” When rooms are dark, we don’t blame the rooms. Rather we ask, “Why wasn’t the light turned on?” So Stott taught a sober truth, viz. if there is blame to be given, it is first of all ours for failing to take our vocations seriously.”

– Steven Garber

There is a responsibility in serving God wherever He desires for us to serve Him.  Often an individual’s impact may be broader than one might realize, even if much of it goes unseen. Perhaps it is in part because of the lack of authentic, lived-out Christianity in this era that leads to unbelievers flailing spiritually.  If a light flickers, where have people to look but darkness?  Certainly no Christian can do the work of saving that God does, but if the life of every believer is a conduit of that message of God’s saving grace, then living anything less than excellence could be devastating to another person’s life.  It could cause a failure to communicate the very traits – integrity, responsibility, and so on – which people may look to for proof that you are trustworthy, and that your life matches your belief system.

I’m still learning to serve God with my best.  Yet Jesus Christ gives the perfect example of a balancing act of spiritual and work-related excellence.  He was a carpenter.  He gave speeches.  He traveled.  He visited friends.  Jesus’s life was full of many activities – but He also had priorities.  He knew when to withdraw to spend time praying alone with his Father in heaven.  He knew when to be apart from the crowds and when to be present.  He knew how to live excellence without compromising His values and His closeness with His Father.  Because of this, among other reasons, He is engaging.  Then and now, people look to Him with questions.  His disciples fellowship with Him and seek His answers.  Jesus specialized in daily, visible, lived-out faith.  Isn’t this the very same thing we hope to achieve?

Art Credit: 500 days of summer.  

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