by Ryan Walters
When we bear witness to Christ, let us strive to speak & act with tenderness so as to not make someone feel cornered. For if Jesus were to have a conversation with anybody whose yet to receive salvation, they certainly wouldn’t feel cornered– at least in the social aspect of the word. To feel ganged up upon or bullied is not of love in any context, and is not of God.
When the Pharisees collectively cornered a woman caught in adultery (John 8), Jesus stepped in as her scapegoat. Instead of cornering & condemning, He reminded His counterparts of their own inner depravity that was undeniable. Christ’s approach to the woman? He took the high road to exemplify grace, offering a whole new way of life to her:
“go and sin no more”.
In the presence of a sacrificial Lamb a sinner will not feel socially cornered per se, but there’s a high probability they will feel cornered by the conviction of sin. A man living in darkness will always have his iniquities exposed by the Light. To quote John 3:20, “one who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” You can’t gaze at grace square in the face without seeing your sin defeated in its midst (Rom. 5:20). To encounter such an immense measure of holiness, purity, grace & forgiveness in a Person is to be inexplicably drawn to your own shortcomings & need of atonement.
I think that’s what I’d sincerely hope someone would experience when engaging the Jesus in me (Gal. 2:20). That perhaps after dialoguing, one would be overcome with self-awareness of the wickedness seeped deep down in their soul to the extent of announcing surrender, raising the white flag and crying out , “How can I be made clean?” I’ve never considered myself an evangelist, but I’m assuming that’s one of the hopeful endgames of evangelism.
However, that sort of response is more the exception to the rule. More often than not, it won’t be the likely response. In 2017, trying to find someone teachable in humility and willing to receive correction is like trying to find water in the Sahara. Our culture tolerates anything and everything, embracing what feels right (Prov. 21:2), and even the Church is becoming soft and congruent with these worldly philosophies.
As a Christian, you slowly begin to learn how to live with the stubborn reponses, and how to combat the hopelessness that accompanies it. No one’s salvation is our burden to bear. Our responsibility lies with our faith journey alone as well as the faithfulness to distribute the Good News (Mark 16:15); not to beat it over someone’s head with a hammer.
Besides falling upon deaf ears, what we might often hear while sharing the Gospel is:
“No thanks. Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.”
“I’d rather keep my mind open so as not to subscribe to any one religion.”
“As human beings, we can reach perfect utopia from within without a higher being.”
“God does not exist.”
“I believe Jesus was a good righteous dude, but not anything more. Not God Himself.”
“Life is more exciting and carefree when you don’t have to submit to someone else’s rules.”
…or my personal favorite: “You’re hypnotized and live in a cult.”
Such responses are evident of a mutual flesh-prompted attitude. “I’m in control. I got this. I’ll figure out my own way on my own time.” To me, that sounds so familiar to what took Satan down from the heavenly realms in the beginning (Eze. 28:1-19); the existential power struggle to be our own god, trumping thee One and Only rightful God.
Since when has it ever been a good idea for an inventor to create something that would eventually wish to overthrow him? How many films have we watched over the years where plots are centered around robotic creations intended to help humans make a better world, only to wreak destruction on those who brought them into it? It never ends well. Never.
So why would we speculate that the intended design behind human beings would be to let them roam free; free of consequence for their actions, and free to be their own god? The aftermath of this lifestyle does not paint a pretty picture. It’s the gateway to our universal suffering. It’s the depravity of the hearts of men. (Research the impact, Mark 7:20-23).
Nobody is blind to the depravity of mankind (Jer. 17:9). In every nook and cranny of this earth, we see it. Even if it’s subliminal, it exists in the minor and major events of daily living. It is the catastrophic result of humans seeking the positioning of god over their own lives.
What do you honestly think is the common denominator and perpetuating origin behind the cold-blooded murder of Tamir Rice? Decimation caused by Hurricane Harvey? White supremacy and blatant racism at Charlottesville? Cruelty demonstrated at Standing Rock? Radical Islamic actions that took place on September 11th? How about birth defects? Increasing suicide rates due to widespread depression? The opioid epidemic sweeping across our nation devastating communities? Corrupt corporations fueling mass incarceration? Extramarital affairs? Homes with absentee fathers? Youth gang violence?
Must I really go on? (Check out Eph. 5:3-5; 1 Thes. 4:3-8; for more specific vice lists)
Not to say, of course, that professing Christians do not perpetuate these issues. They do, regrettably enough. And as a percentage of them do, more and more folks are turned off by an organized religion known as Christianity. Thus, they fall short of investigating the Man who goes by Jesus Christ, whom they’ve heard of through the grape vine. How sad is that?
People tend to forget, intentionally or unintentionally, that Jesus-followers are broken like the rest of the world’s inhabitants. Maybe we shot ourselves in the foot by walking around as if we are less broken. After all, Christians are frequently notorious for their pompous displays of self-righteousness. Yet, Christians can honestly be a pretty perverted, manipulative, insincere, and downright hurtful group of people. I mean, even I usually say, “The best people I know are Christians…and so are the worst.”
Then what differentiates us from the world if our hearts are just as infected with depravity as the rest?
We who profess Christ as Lord are a people who humbly identify our depravity, and conclude that we no longer wish to live a life consumed and cursed by it.
We are a people who by faith, choose to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of the only begotten Son of God named Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9)
whose blood has paid the one-time eternal price of our sin through forgiveness that we did not deserve nor receive by our own merit (Eph.2:8)
breaking the chains of perpetuating depravity, making a way to obtain right standing before God the Father, therefore counting us as the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)
allowing Him to restore and redeem our severe brokenness by His grace and through the process of sanctification having our hearts experience radical change
replacing the desires of flesh with desires of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17) in turn transforming a sinful people into a holy people (1 Pet. 2:9)
renewing sinners into saints & offering an everlasting friendship (John 15:15) with the One and only Almighty God who calls us into His kingdom mission to one day experience a new heaven and a new earth, displaying His love and light and endless mercy for all to see the glory of a Risen King.
This side of heaven we’ll never reach our full glory or perfectly holistic spirits. That is for another day when we enter into Paradise. But the man or woman who repent of their transgressions, call upon the name of the Lord, and find refuge in His blood can say, “While I’m down here, I’m going to at least make the decision to let God make a dent in my depravity and begin restoring me to His likeness, trusting the promise that He who hath begun a good work in me will see it through to completion” (Phil. 1:6).
Thus, that’s what separates us from the unsaved. The ‘I’m willing to die in my sin’ attitude versus the ‘I’m willing to accept the free gift of salvation; that Christ hath defeated my sin, overcome the world, and has given me a brand new life’ attitude (2 Cor. 5:17).
What a common tragedy we’re observing when those on the outside looking in at colonies of faith find one more reason to say no to entering in to the greatest love story that’s ever been told, because of broken behavior of professing Christians.
We might be the only representation of Jesus someone ever comes in contact with. Measure the weight of eternal importance of that truth, and genuinely love on your neighbor. Love one another with the purity of God’s love. And maybe – just maybe – as we approach conversations, the Holy Ghost will move, depravity will be felt, & surrender to Christ will follow.
Final Conclusion: I’d rather be disliked than liked by somebody after approaching them (Rom. 10:17), if it means their soul being cornered by conviction of sin (Rom. 6:23), leading them by kindness into repentance (Rom. 2:4) and to sin no more, taking the first step of faith towards salvation that opens the door to walking side by side with Christ in this life.
The life more abundant. The only life where our emptiness and thirst is satisfied, fears are removed, hope in suffering has the last word, and love is aligned with its intended design.
The only life of eternal value.
Maybe I’m alone in this one,
But to me at least…
that sharing of Good News sounds worth it.