We hosted some of our missionaries in town recently, and one of them shared an analogy with me and the missions committee. He explained that sharing our faith is a lot like picking apples. When you go apple picking and find an apple that looks tasty, a great way to know if it is ready is by turning the apple slightly. As you turn the apple in your hand, if it easily falls off the tree then it is ripe and ready to be take home. But if you twist the apple and it stays firmly attached to the tree, then you leave it for someone else to enjoy later.
Sharing our faith is a bit like picking apples. God calls us to be faithful to share the message of the gospel, but we are not responsible for the response. It is our job to communicate the good news, not to force someone into conversion. We won't always know if they are ready to respond, so we try, and wait to see. If they are not ready, we don't beat ourselves up, or them, we move on with our days and share it with the next person too.
Like the watchman
The prophet Ezekiel was given the responsibility from God to be like the watchman on the tower. It was said that the watchman's job and was to warn the city's inhabitants about the impending danger that he saw coming. If anyone heard the warning but did not heed the trumpet, it was no longer the watchman's responsibility. It was on them for not listening. But if the watchman failed to give the warning, then they held responsibility for those in the city (Ezekiel 33).
We are meant to be like watchmen to our world. We have the words of life, and we know the impending doom that comes to those who fail to trust in Jesus. It is our job to sound the trumpet, to share the message of salvation. If anyone hears our warning and does not heed the message, it is not our responsibility. But as followers of Jesus, we do bear the responsibility to communicate the good news.
Be my witnesses
Following the resurrection, Jesus exhorted his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). We cannot control the response of those around us, but we can be witnesses to the message of the Scriptures and the new life Jesus has created in us. We cannot know whether the apple will be ripe, but we are called to twist the apple none the less. We cannot know whether the hearer will heed our message, but like watchmen, we are called to send out the warning all the same.
Our job is to be faithful; Jesus does the rest
In all this, our job is to be faithful. We are called to be faithful messengers of the good news, witnesses to the coming Kingdom. We are called to communicate the gospel, and leave the rest up to Jesus. We see this happen in Acts. Paul faithfully communicates the gospel repeatedly throughout the book. In Acts 16 we see a story of Paul in Philippi, witnessing to the good news. It says that "One who heard us was a woman named Lydia... The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul (Acts 16:14)." Paul was faithful, and God opened Lydia's heart.
We don't now which apples are ripe. We are just called to give them a twist. Our job is to be faithful, and then we let Jesus take care of the rest. Be faithful today. Twist some apples.