by Dave Short
(Editor’s note: This is the 2nd post in an 8-part series called “What’s Your Evangelism Style?“)
I’ve never seen a soul set free
Through an argument
I’ve never seen a hurt get healed
In a protest
But I’ve seen sinners turned to saints
Because of grace
It’s love, love that lights the way
Love that lights the way
– Family Force 5
We are living in a very heated and contentious time in history. From issues of race to religion, technology has made the differences between us being even more public and pronounced.
As we vividly see in our own political process, when individuals make their differences the focus, it often causes greater and more permanent division. We fight, we argue, we divide and conquer. But what are we to make of Jesus’ most often repeated statement in the Gospels (six times in all): “Whoever loses his life will find it”? The Message Bible calls it the “Great Reversal.”
But most of us don’t want to lose anything, especially our right to be right.
But in this “Great Reversal,” we find the fastest way to turn around public opinion about Christ. I travel frequently, and that often prompts conversations with people who see the world quite differently than I do. In a one to two-hour flight, I have seen more barriers go down by admitting my own weakness and failures than defending the churches stance on various issues. We Christians need to be less defensive and more honest about our failings. If we do so, barriers go down.
In an interview, Philip Yancey said,
Jesus came with ‘grace and truth.’ The church has worked very hard to define truth, hence the creeds and church councils and many denominations. I would never diminish their importance but do churches compete in dispensing God’s grace with as much drive? That may be the most urgent question today. I haven’t met anyone who says, ‘I became a Christian because I lost an argument one night.’ I’ve met many who say, ‘I became a Christian because someone loved me.’
Paul warns Titus to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9).
He shares a similar challenge to Timothy:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:23-25)
We don’t advocate compromise, but rather encourage compassion.
Jesus is not visible on earth anymore. People won’t catch him at the local Starbucks, or find his personal Facebook page. You and I are the primary evidence of God in the world. Christ’s body on earth.
Too often we see the differences between us as insurmountable—too big for us to make any significant impact. Yet if we can take it down to helping individuals, one at a time, and extending God’s love to those near us, we can make a significant difference.
Mother Teresa emulated this principle in a big way. She would find one needy person and love them back to health, then find another, and another. She impacted the world by focusing on one. Organizations and programs are important, but those who follow Christ must live out a “last place” lifestyle in order to see insurmountable barriers in our work places and neighborhoods come down. An organization cannot love. Only a person can love.
Dave Short (@dave_short) currently serves as national director of Alpha for Campus and Youth (Alpha USA), which offers training and resources to those involved in student/campus evangelism. Dave and his wife, Valerie, are also 25-year veteran campus ministers who have pioneered campus ministries throughout the U.S. and overseas.