Truth is like orange juice.
Imagine you were sitting at breakfast with a friend. On the table in between you is a large pitcher of ice-cold, freshly-squeezed orange juice. It looks so good, you have to have some. So, you grab the pitcher and pour yourself a glass, take a huge gulp and then set the pitcher back down on the table. A few moments pass, and your friend asks “Hey, why didn’t you offer me any orange juice?” Your response? “I didn’t know if you liked orange juice. I didn’t want to offend you by offering you something you might not want.”
Seems a little silly, no? But how often do we do the same thing with that which causes us the most happiness in our lives: our religion? I really like orange juice, if it’s fresh and cold and amazing. I love it. I also really like my friends. When I have a great glass of orange juice, I’m going to naturally offer some to those I care about, see if they want some. If they say no, am I offended that they do not like the orange juice that I so adore? Of course not.
Maybe this analogy is a little contrived, but I think it makes a point. The thing in my life that causes me the most joy and happiness (more so than even orange juice) is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love it so much. So, why would I not at least offer it to those I care about, friends, family, and neighbors? One of the main reasons we hear again and again for why people do not talk about their faith with others is that they are afraid of offending their friends by being too pushy. I can understand that, I have met a few people who have been a bit pushy about their religion, and it makes me not want to know anything more about what they believe. But, if the gospel were offered in such a loving, heart-felt, casual way as a glass of orange juice, would we see more or less people offended at the offer?
I spent two years as a missionary in Germany, knocking on doors, stopping people in the street, talking to everybody I met on the train. As a missionary, an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that was my responsibility, that was what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t very effective – well, we did talk to a lot of people, but few of them were interested in continuing the discussion beyond the one conversation on the doorstep or on the street corner. Where we found more success was when members of the local congregations would invite us over to meet their friends. For example, I was in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, which was being hosted by Germany. You can imagine (unless you are an American and don’t really understand the way the world views soccer) it was almost impossible to talk to anybody by knocking on doors during a game – no one wanted to let us in. There was one member family, however, who invited us over for a lunch and then to watch the game. They also invited some friends from work and a few neighbors. When we were there, watching the game, these friends were a little curious as to why two young Americans would be wandering around Germany, so we explained why we were there. This was infinitely better than if we had knocked on their door – they were asking us questions about what we believed, in a friendly, comfortable setting. (I don’t care what you think, having two strangers standing on your porch talking about religion is an awkward situation for most people.)
This member family invited some close friends over to watch the game and have some food, then they also invited the missionaries. They let the conversation happen naturally. This was not pushy or offensive. This was an honest attempt at showing their friends what they had in their lives that they really loved. And that is how it can work. Be honest, be open, be friendly, be loving. And by all means, don’t stop being honest, open, friendly, and loving when your friends tell you they just aren’t interested in the gospel. That should have no effect on your friendship. Because that is not the basis of your friendship.
We should not be ashamed of our love of the gospel and the truths that make us happy. We should seek friendly ways of sharing and showing our friends and neighbors and family members the joy that we have found. It is as simple as living the gospel, enjoying the gospel and offering occasionally to allow your friends to participate with you. Maybe there’s an activity in the ward they might enjoy. (Everyone loves free food, and Mormons are notorious for having lots of food at their activities!) Maybe they might enjoy coming to watch your children in the Christmas or Easter Sacrament program. Maybe you could invite them over for an evening of food, and games, with a small spiritual lesson – perhaps this could be done on a Monday night??
Because it is something that you enjoy, they might as well. And how would you feel if your friend had something that brought so much joy and happiness into his life and kept it all for himself? How would you feel if your friend drank all of the orange juice because he didn’t want to offend you by offering you any? An offer, when made with love and real intent and concern, is never offensive. If they decline, well, then they’ve declined. No big deal. Keep trying, keep being happy and keep being “an example of the believers.” Let the love and the light of the Gospel permeate from you and you will definitely give light to a few of those who are around you.