Bushel - a forgotten volumetric measure that you might be unfamiliar with unless you visited a farm. A bushel is part of the British Imperial system and derives from commonly used unit measures dating from Roman times like fathoms, furlongs and acres. For most of us, it is that medium-sized basket you used to haul vegetables from the field.
And then there was that Sunday school song. If you were a kid in the sixties you knew it.
This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine; let it shine…
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine
Except that my friend used to look at me and laugh, and belt out,
Hide it under a bush? HELL NO!
He never got called on it.
Those were strange times. Raised under the shadow cast by the war and depression generation, the world was quite black and white with no shades of gray at all. Sunday school songs were riddled with military motifs. We had a religious equivalent of cub scouts called Crusaders, and songs like “I’m in the Lord’s Army” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” were standard fare. We were fighting the good fight.
Hence, we were tasked with saving “the world” (you know, all those OTHER kids). A guest would be called in and we would be polled. “Who here has ever led a friend to the Lord?” Nervous rustling, scratching. No eye contact. No matter. The guest speaker had a catch-all remedy.
They would enthusiastically trot out something called a “Salvation Matrix”. It was a series of questions meant to entrap someone into making a commitment with their soul. It was a sales tool worthy of a encyclopedia salesman. The questions started subtly “Do you believe in Hell?” and any stray answer like “yeah all my friends are going there so that’s where I want to be” would be headed off at the pass with more clever answers drawn from holy Scripture. The series of questions finally narrowed to the point where you had your adversary backed into a corner, and he was supposed to fall down and recite the “sinner’s prayer” with just the proper wording. Equipped thus we were sent out into the world.
The problem was, kids are kids. What we really wanted was to be just like all the other kids and not stand out in any awkward or nerdy way. I don’t think those salvation matrixes ever got far. I am also of the opinion that choices made under duress will likely not stick. Anyway, we had other evangelical tools at hand. More subversive and definitely more comfortable, was to leave anonymous tracts. Jack Chick’s are famous. He had the best, great illustrations, and great stories. They usually ended something like this, scaring the Hell out of you literally.
The problem with this kind of proselytizing, is that it wears off just like when you watch a scary movie. It is not an enduring way of convincing anyone of anything. And if you have wrestled with faith, you already know that God has his own mysterious ways of working on the human heart.
I remember once getting tasked by the Sunday school teacher with taking one of the ‘bad kids’ with me to the yearly picnic. His parents didn’t go to church, and he needed a ride. I obeyed to the minimum letter of the law only. As soon as we got to the picnic I ran off with my own friends and ditched him until it was time to ride back. Oddly, he didn’t rat me out afterwards although he must have hated me. He knew what to expect. I was privately ashamed at the time, but not ashamed enough, which is the point, I guess.
You could stir up a lot of table talk, with a discussion over what it means to be saved and how exactly one gets there. Nonetheless, it has occurred to me that the Gospel in Greek is called the Evangelium which literally means Good News. Meant to be shared. A look around the world might tell you that we all could use some real good news. It just seems that the prevailing culture of the Churches, is that we are ashamed to tell it. This somehow seems a bit off to me, like making the opposite mistake of extremes.
Pushing for sixty, I am past the age of shame at almost anything. Fashion crime? No matter. An opinion that should never see the light of day? Try me. I am also of the mind of Saint Paul, who said pointedly to the Romans “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
Like they told us in kindergarten, sharing is good. It is just that sharing should have some sensitivity to personality and situation. In theology, the arguments back and forth which establish the truth of the Gospel, they are called apologetics. But apologetics do not have to be apologetic.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word.” (Romans 10:17). And further in the same chapter, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? ….
There you go. Preach it. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. You can even shout out, if asked, just like my friend, “hide it under a bush? HELL NO!”