Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 34; 146, Exodus 5:1-6:1, 1 Corinthians 14:20-40, Mark 9:42-50
We’ve all seen them: evangelists who go Full Brimstone attempting to convert non-believers. From the classic “If you’re wrong you’re going to hell!” to the modern “God Hates Fags” tactics deployed at military funerals and on cable, someone is always telling someone else why God is damning them to eternal suffering. Fear-based evangelism is notoriously ineffective except for fundraising from believers, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt to its practitioners and assume they are fumbling to share the core message of salvation through Christ. Then let’s meditate on some teachings of Paul and Jesus.
Paul advised the Corinthian that speaking in tongues impressed some believers, but to non-believers it was gibberish that at best said nothing and at worst confused or repelled them. He told those with the gift of prophecy to keep it reined in; believers and non-believers alike could be overwhelmed by more than two or three speakers at time. Zeal is admirable, but leading with the big guns doesn’t exactly tell people you come in peace.
Jesus told people it was better to cut off a hand or foot or to poke out an eye if those parts presented stumbling blocks to the little ones following him. This passage follows Christ’s rebuke of disciples who were unhappy to see strangers casting out demons in his name. Attacking their fledgling faith would have accomplished nothing, and may even have destroyed the good work they were doing.
Our convictions in Christ remain firm, but how we share them with others is important. When Jesus told the rich young man he would have to give up everything he owned to become a disciple … the rich young man walked away. If it doesn’t work for Jesus, it’s not going to work for us. The good news we have to share is not that hell is our default destination and we have the exclusive ticket out; the good news is God loves everyone enough to offer them eternal life. If that seems like a distinction without a difference, remember that famed dog- and horse-whisperers succeed because they teach by understanding their students, not forcing the students to understand them.
Comfort: There’s always another way to share the good news of our faith.
Challenge: Before sharing the Gospel, decide whether you’re trying to win souls or just win arguments.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ! Give me the courage and wisdom to share your word effectively with those who need to hear it. Amen.
Discussion: Are you comfortable speaking about your faith? Is any discomfort you have about what you believe, or about what you think you need to say to share it?
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