We’ve got it all wrong. It’s always amazed me how backwards many good meaning “Christians” approach reaching out to a hurting world with the message of the gospel and the good news of Jesus. Often there’s an approach of condemnation or scare tactics by comments like…”Turn or burn”… There’s no doubt there is a sense of urgency for the truth of the gospel to be shared is at an all time high. But, as we look at Christ’s life and ministry as a model of how we should also reach the world, we see some clear contrasts to how many Christians approach “evangelism today.”
Jesus never condemned the lost, but taught, healed, and loved. He knew that it was impossible for the lost person to behave as the redeemed, so there was no expectation of anything different and He was not vindictive when confronting the unbeliever. Jesus’ approach was not to convince, but rather to see through to the deepest parts of the human spirit and meet the needs of those who came to hear and see, right where they were. He taught…He healed…He comforted…He connected…He welcomed…He embraced. It was through the meeting of the needs that the truth of who He was and why He had come was revealed. He came to bring relationship…not religion. How often do we get this backwards, trying to force people to believe the same things we believe, and dividing the body of Christ over ultimately insignificant points, instead of sharing in love the person of Christ, letting the Holy Spirit do the work in their lives, and placing the focus of a growing, vibrant relationship with God as the most important part of our lives?
Jesus’ harshest words were directed toward His followers and the religious leaders of the day who had so twisted the law and God’s intent that they had actually become a barrier to others coming to Christ. Unlike Christ, we often spend so much time condemning those who are trapped in their “sin” that we lose the ability to connect in love and share the good news with authenticity. Prostitutes…tax collectors…demon possessed…the broker were the central focus of Jesus. Today, instead of reaching out to these folks in love, we condemn their lifestyle from afar. Where’ Jesus in that?
Jesus destroyed the power of idols in the lives of people instead of condemning. Our human experience has been built around creating idols in our lives to fill a need that only God can fill. Jesus provided another solution, not through condemnation but by introducing Himself as the only true way to peace. No longer would folks have to frantically search for fulfillment, joy, peace, and purpose. Unfortunately, although freedom came in Christ, our human nature brings us back to searching for and creating idols in our lives to fill a void.
“Paul’s world worshiped idols. No idol was more revered in Ephesus than the goddess Diana. The great statue was housed in a magnificent temple and was recognized as one of the wonders of the world. An idol-making industry, providing a livelihood for many people, developed in Ephesus to support the widespread idolatry of the day.
Paul did not go to Ephesus to condemn those worshiping idols but to unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. As Paul shared the truths of God, and as people were set free from sin’s bondage, idol worship began to decline. The contrast between stone carvings and God’s power to change lives became obvious. The righteous lives of the Christians stood in stark contrast to the hedonistic practices of the idol worshipers. The victorious Christian witness was so compelling that the economy of the entire city was thrown into upheaval as idolatry diminished in favor of Christianity.
Our society is as idolatrous as Paul’s was. Rather than worshiping statues, we choose possessions, pleasures, or careers as our gods and pour our time, finances, and energy into these things. We do not have to seek out and condemn today’s idols. Rather, as we live out our Christianity, enjoying the abundant life God gives, our lives will discredit the idols around us. We may face opposition and hostility from those who are angered at the contrast between our God and theirs. People do not like to have their idols dethroned! Yet as we uphold Christ with victorious, purposeful lives, others will see a difference and be drawn to Him and the life that He offers.” (Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day).
The ultimate question is…how are you and I taking steps each and every day to reach a hurting world in the same way Christ did? The seductiveness of idols in our culture and our lives is relentless. But, God’s word promises that any chain can be broken through the power of Christ. Our purpose is to love God with all our heart, sould, mind, and strength…and love our neighbor as ourselves. We need to understand that Christ is love and as we follow Him more, He has shown us the perfect model for reaching a hurting world, step by step and day by day.
By His grace and for His glory!