Over the past few weeks, I've been having an email conversation with two people that have made me question how to share my faith in Jesus. One is a non-Christian who took offense with what this person thinks is my lack of concern over two-thirds of the population of the planet who do not believe in Jesus Christ. This person sees me as arrogant to believe that I have the true religion and he and two-thirds of the world do not.
The other person professes to be a Christian but is also an active homosexual. This person found condemnation in what I would call mainline Christian churches but found a Christian church that accepts homosexuality as a personal choice and not a sin. Again, this person thinks that I'm arrogant and unloving and "cherry-picking" my Biblical texts to support my theology against homosexuality.
Then I heard an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Thursday with William Lobdell. A friend of Hewitt, he came to faith in Christ through Hewitt's sharing his faith with him. He then became the religion reporter for the LA Times. After covering the clergy-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church he, in his words, "lost his religion." He is now a professed deist bordering on atheism.
What really started me thinking was Lobdell's comment that after losing his religion, he was "at peace with it."
I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believe that I am a sinner. I believe that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, died on a cross to pay the price for my sin and rose from the dead on the third day to give me eternal life. I believe that Jesus did all this for "the world" so that whoever believes in Him (has faith in Him) will be saved and have eternal life.
I also believe that I have a mandate from Jesus Christ to "go into all the world and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28).
But this past week I've been thinking hard about - and struggling with - how to do that.
How do you share your faith in Jesus Christ and "make disciples" with people who are at peace with what they believe and it doesn't include Jesus? They know about Jesus, they have heard about Him. But they also know about Christians and have a very low opinion of most of them as fanatical, hypocritical, and some criminal. How do you reach a person who doesn't want anything to do with Jesus because a Jesus follower lies, cheats, and commits crimes against children?
I've been taught - and have taught - that people who don't know Jesus as their savior "still haven't found what" they are "looking for." But what if that isn't true? What if they have found what they are looking for in something else other than Jesus? My approach to evangelism (sharing Jesus) has been based on the premise that Jesus Christ will be exactly what people have been searching for all their lives and haven't found. That Jesus will be the source of the peace and hope that they've been looking for.
But what if they've found that peace and hope in something or someone else? This is a distinct possibility that I never acknowledged before.
This has to be dealt with in how I share Jesus Christ with the world. That other people are not going to think that I have the Truth they've been searching for but haven't found.
I believe that it is true, that I actually do have the Truth that they have been searching for, but that can't be my opening line!
I think that First Century Christians had some things a little easier. Practically no one had even heard of Jesus Christ when those Christians began sharing their own faith with them.
But today, in Twenty-First Century America, practically everyone has heard of Jesus. Everyone has at least heard the name of Jesus (although it is mostly as a curse word). And they simply don't care to have anything to do with the message of Jesus Christ. Not because of the message of peace and love and forgiveness, but because of the messengers who appear to not live that kind of life.
I've got my work cut out for me. I not only have to work against people's unbelief, but also their impression of Christians such as sick pastors who abuse children, members of churches who say that God hates homosexuals and liberals, and Christians who don't live the Christian life.
Because I believe that God in omniscient and omnipotent, I believe that God anticipated this very challenging era that I find myself living in. As such, I believe He has raised up our generation of disciples of Jesus "for such a time as this." He has given me and my brothers and sisters in Christ (the Church) the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the reasonable intelligence to figure out the best way to share our faith and make disciples of people who still haven't found what they are looking for (even though they think they have) and have lost their religion.