With so much coverage of atheist movements in the news lately, and the ever-increasing push to rid the U.S. of morals and biblical foundation, I find myself wondering what Jesus would do if he lived in the world today? Would he rant and rave that He was the sole possessor of truth, and that those who disagreed were the worst of sinners and destined for eternal damnation? Would he strongly oppose the people who mocked and ridiculed Christianity, pointing fingers and accusing them of barbaric sinfulness? Would he praise those who stood up and vehemently condemned those who stood against God? I want to say yes, but somehow, I don’t think so.
Jesus also lived in a time of moral decline and zealous haters. He walked and talked daily with people who didn’t understand the beauty of the gospel. He was ultimately murdered by those who jealously scorned him. They didn’t understand that He was their savior, and they furiously persecuted, condemned and killed him because their minds could not grasp the truth. Did Jesus hate them? Did he yell at them, call them all sinners, and condemn them to hell for their ignorance? No. He loved them. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “We know that we all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” The crux of the matter is this: we may know what scriptures says, and of course we know that it is true. But the Word of the Lord is ineffective if not delivered in love. Because God is Love. Who are we to think that we in ourselves can impart some lasting wisdom to the world that will change their lives?
From what I have seen, when Christians debate the validity of the gospel, they often allow their feelings to cause heat in the conversation, which in turn puts the non-believer on the defensive. If only we could see that this is not about us, or an attack on us. It’s an attack on God, on the salvation Christ died to give. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. We need to see non-believers as wanna-believers who have received something besides Truth.
Not only do we need to look at people who reject the gospel through the eyes of love, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead in our interactions with them. Self gets in the way at a crucial time when God needs to be the one in control. How else can we lovingly lead people to the truth? Because the truth is, people don’t need another list of things to do or not do. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, not us. If Jesus was our example, we know that instead of throwing stones with the religious leaders, he chose to lovingly forgive. Who set the captive free?
I am not advocating for complacency. I think we need to forcefully advance the kingdom, but with an attitude of love and grace. Not superiority and hate. After all, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Once they know how much you care, they will be more open to caring about what you know. I heard this morning a quote by Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s daughter, that really speaks to this. She said, “I was much more warmed by your embers than your flame.” Of course we have the flame inside us! I feel as Jeremiah, that there is “ a fire shut up in my bones.” But fire becomes a very unpleasant thing if it becomes too hot or we get too close. Lets attract people with the warmth of our light and trust God to set them free from the darkness of New Age “Reason.”