Michael and I participated in an interesting discussion at our Bible study last night that centered on evangelism. As we were discussing various forms of “sharing the Lord” with others I had this picture come to mind.
It was a scene from an old Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey. The movie focuses on Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd, and his friendship with an invisible 6-foot-tall rabbit named “Harvey,” which only he can see.
Nearly everywhere Elwood travels Harvey remains with Dowd. They seem inseparable. Elwood almost always introduces the people he is with to his special friend, Harvey, and never thinks anything of it. He is oblivious to their reactions of concern when they cannot see Harvey for themselves.
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Clearly, Elwood believes and knows Harvey is real, which, of course, gives rise to concerns about his sanity. In the movie there are hints that Harvey might be some kind of mischievous spirit being, but it’s never made clear.
What struck me most during the discussion was why do we struggle with talking about Jesus, who we say we believe is Emmanuel (God with us), and who we believe will never leave or forsake us—and therefore is with us all the time? Why do we struggle?
Elwood never doubted Harvey’s existence. We say we don’t doubt the Lord is real. And yet, because He is not visible to us, (or to those we meet) we often find it hard to talk about the One who we call our Best Friend and Lover of our Souls. We need formulas and methods, as opposed to just sharing about being with our Friend, the One we love.
As I thought about this comparison at the study it made an impression on me again how very small God often becomes in our lives when we spend time with people who don’t believe as we do. Our desire to fit in and be accepted is often greater than our desire to dwell with or abide in the One we say we love. Stewart’s character was always polite and considerate, but wherever he went Harvey was his constant companion and someone he talked about freely, no matter what people thought.
Elwood’s friend Harvey was all of 6 feet tall and was accommodated as such. Harvey was never less in Elwood’s eyes. But Jesus in our lives, as we give place to Him, occupies a larger or smaller space, depending on how comfortable we are with Him in certain situations.
I think the core issue about evangelism has nothing to do with formula, method, or any other contrivance. It has everything to do with how real Jesus is to us consistently in our lives.
Is He always with us? Or rather, are we always with Him—aware of Him, connecting to Him, our very source of life, love and being itself?
I think if Jesus is at least as big and real as Harvey was to Jimmy Stewart’s Elwood, we would find it a whole lot easier to talk about our Best Friend, even with people who might think us more than a little crazy.