I ended part one describing the guilt of evangelism. How I felt that maybe I was misunderstanding it, or maybe something was wrong with me. How I tried to make myself whip out Jesus, but just couldn't pull the trigger in the end- I kept feeling that I needed to talk to THEM, that every person was a special case that the rules of Romans Road didn't apply to (check the link if you don't know what that refers to).
Looking back now, I'm proud of myself, because I WAS RIGHT. Perhaps I misunderstood- I'll allow that objection- but what the hell were they thinking? I would like to blame it on the 80's and the "me decade" or some of that crap, but I don't think that's the case, because I still see the same thing around me now. Hence the topic of these two parts.
Many people would rather just pull out the cannon of the gospel (we Christians LOVE to refer to the sword of the Word. Love "Onward Christian Soldiers", etc- fodder for another post) and shoot 'em, than get to know the people they want to conquer....uhhh... I mean... convert.
I feel like so much of this Christian need for "evangelism"* comes from from a sort of falling-dominoes guilt culture.
But first, here are two currently very popular how-to-live-as-a-Christian books, and the marketing talk that goes along with them.
The first is Kyle Idleman's Not A Fan. The book is described this way:
"If Jesus were to sit down with you right now and have a DTR (Define the Relationship) conversation, how would you respond? Are you truly his follower or just a fan---or perhaps someone who doesn’t even care about the difference? Not a Fan invites you to make Jesus not merely the object of your admiration, but the very center of your life."You see, it's not enough to be interested in Jesus. Or inspired by Jesus. Or curious about Jesus. Forget the Apostle Paul's thoughts that "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached" (Phillipians 1:18) or Jesus' own words in Mark 9 that "whoever is not against us is for us".
Or does making people feel inadequate just make money? Look it up on Google- it's been the keystone of advertisers for a long time. But surely Christians wouldn't do that, would they?
Next, let's look at an even newer book: Mark Batterson's All In. Here's the dust-jacket copy for that one:
The message of All In is simple: if Jesus is not Lord of all then Jesus is not Lord at all. It’s all or nothing. It’s now or never. Kneeling... and surrendering to His Lordship is a radical act of dethroning yourself and enthroning Christ as King. It’s also an act of disowning yourself. Nothing belongs to you. Not even you. Batterson writes," ...for many years, I thought I was following Jesus. I wasn’t."All or nothing. Black or white. 1's or 0's. On or Off. And what do you think a person who isn't a Christian but is intrigued enough to pick up this book will think when they read that? I would bet it'd be some version of "Well, forget it, then!"
So the question comes back to: Why? What is it that makes such a large group of Christians afraid of their own friends? Is it books like the above? Is it social media? American culture? Or maybe they don't have any friends outside of the church (and isn't that one sign that you're a member of a cult?).
JUST WHAT IS SO TERRIFYING ABOUT CONVERSATION WITH NON-CHRISTIANS???
Back to that domino effect guilt. If someone has made you feel guilty about something you should do, it is a common choice to pass that guilt along- to initiate the next person the same way you were initiated.
Well, as for me and my... readers- it ends here.
Love. It's about love. In Matthew 22, we see this exchange:
Love God, Love your neighbor (Defined by Jesus elsewhere as anyone who needs you)
One of them, an expert in the law, tested [Jesus] with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So, just to free associate, what words do we associate with love? Guilt, Fear, Distance, Impersonal, One-size-fits-all, formula? Or maybe inadequate, uncommitted, restrained? No? These don't sound like loving words? And yet we've just seen from two best-selling books that this is what Christians are communicating about their faith.
Sure, it's a response to wishy-washy church-on-Sunday, party-on-Saturday 'Christians'. And yes, these books are intended not for 'the unchurched' or 'inquirers', but I think they still speak of the thinking of the Christians who should be reaching out to those groups.
But, back to the Great Commission that we ended part one with. Jesus wants us to go "...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Well, just a moment ago, we saw that Jesus 'commanded' that the greatest two commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. We can certainly look at the other things that "hang on" those commandments. But for our purposes right now, how did Jesus interact with those outside his faith circle? How about the woman at the well? Or Zacheus? What about the prostitute who washed his feet with her hair and expensive perfume?
That's a good one to start with.
Here's some info on why the feet are washed:
The Old Testament references show that the washing of the feet was the first act on entering the tent or house after a journey. The Orientals wore only sandals, and this washing was refreshing as well as cleanly. In the case of ordinary people, the host furnished the water, and the guests washed their own feet, but in the richer houses, the washing was done by a slave. It was looked upon as the lowliest of all services.
Now what would it mean for a prostitute- you can imagine how she was thought of in the Biblical world, and if you can't read this- to use her own hair to do the above? Imagine how this woman must have felt. Did Jesus try to make her feel bad, yell at her for touching Him?, make an example of her? No, he told a story to the religious superstars he was having dinner with:
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" [the host, Simon] replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
Hmmm. Sounds like He's encouraging what she did, not reminding her how she needs to be 'more than a fan' or that she needs to go 'all in'. In fact, some people may be going 'all in' just speaking with us about Christian things. But in order to know that we'd have to actually know them, live with them, be friends with them and love them.
Or you could just quote a single Bible verse on your voicemail and leave it at that. And if they don't get converted by it, well that's their problem, isn't it?
Next time we'll look at this last sentence a little more. Do we love these people- or hate them?