Ever complete a "connect the dots" picture as a kid? Of course, you did. A page full of dots turns into a great picture of a dog, a pirate, or perhaps the Empire State Building. Suppose, however, that you encountered a blank page and someone asked you to connect the dots. Your response, no doubt, would be, "How can I connect the dots? There aren't any there."
As Christians, we sometimes bemoan the fact that others "don't get it." We don't understand why people do not see Christ for who we see him to be. But could it be that the reason they don't understand the big deal about Jesus is because they've never been given the right dots to connect?
In the first days of the first-century church, the disciples of Jesus saw thousands come to an understanding of who Christ is and begin to follow him. I want to suggest that they saw this kind of response because the disciples gave their listeners some really important dots to connect. We see those dots on particular display in Acts 4:13-14.
Peter and John, two of Jesus's followers, had healed a man who had been crippled for over 40 years. The act was done in public where all could see, including the religious elite. That is when we read, "When they [the religious leaders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took notice that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with with them, there was nothing they could say."
Did you see what these religious leaders noticed about Peter and John? They noticed:
I like to think of these three observations about Peter and John as dots. Dots that people were asked to connect. Dots that we should find in our own lives as well.
Suppose that people see you as an ordinary person. You may know quite a bit about lots of things, but you don't carry yourself in that way. You just come across as a normal guy or gal and people see that. In fact, they like you because you come across as very normal. Suppose further that people, because of little things you say along the way, know that you are someone who trusts in Christ and seeks to follow him. You aren't preachy about it, but if they were to describe you, they would add something about you being a Christian. And then finally suppose that your life is not like others'. There is a kindness. There is a resilience. There is a hope. There is a willingness to take time for others. There is love. There are things in your life not found in others that go way beyond just being a nice person.
What would happen if you had those kinds of dots in your life? I think lots of people would start making the connections and see Jesus for who he is. Oh sure, there would be those who, like the religious leaders of Peter and John's day, are so intent on being the masters of their own ship they cannot see the shape the dots make even when it is set clearly before them. But by and large, the biblical account would suggest that when the dots are in place, people make the connection.
The question for us is this: do our lives display these dots? First, do we come off as ordinary people, or do we have an air about us that says we are somehow better? Second, do we say enough about Jesus that people connect who we are and what we do with him? And third, are our lives marked so much by his Spirit that they have a supernatural mark to them? It seems to me that if just one of these dots is missing people will have a hard time connecting them and seeing Jesus.
Perhaps you have struggled making headway with people in regards to Christianity. You want them to know Christ for who he is, but despite your efforts there seems to be little progress. Could it be that one of the dots in Peter and John's lives is missing in yours? If so, ask God to put those dots in your lives. I don't think he will turn you down.
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions.