What I have learned about being a bold proclaimer of the Gospel
There are two lessons I have recently learned the hard way, about how to talk with people who differ with me about spiritual and political worldviews.
I suspect many are like me; as soon as we hear people say something contrary to what we hold to be true, we react and make countering statements. Here are a few examples of statements that irritate me:
“I am finding yoga to be so very relaxing and mind expanding.”
“My chiropractor is doing wonders with me by helping me focus.”
“I died and came back as a very good vegetable.”
“What great relief both physically and spiritually I am getting from acupuncture.”
“My church is so affirming; all who are spiritual are on the same and right path.”
“If only we could overcome the pollution that is causing us so much grief and disease.”
“We owe it to the planet and the universe in general to resist as best we can.”
“Now that we know all paths lead to spiritual maturity, we should be in solidarity with each other around the globe.”
“We must accept and appreciate the many divergent life-styles being celebrated today.”
“I accept the divine in you and in all the life forms on the planet.”
“The universe is our grand teacher, and its stars and planets guide us into all truth.”
The above is but a smattering of what I hear living in Marin County, one of the most liberal spots in the entire country. And it is here that I am to present Jesus Christ and Him crucified—a formidable if not almost impossible task. Yet this is what I and other followers of Jesus are called to do.
A survey of the Book of Acts is helpful here. We find that the objective of the Christian witnesses, whether Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Silas, Apollo, or Paul, was always to find a way to present the person and work of Jesus Christ. Contrary opinions were generally ignored, especially in person-to-person evangelism. Changing from secular and pagan views came later when those evangelized were now believers and gathered together.
Paul did challenge worldviews when he addressed the Athenians in a public speaking venue, which was appropriate. However, the early Christians simply went directly to the story of the cross and resurrection of their Lord. They gave out the Gospel and depended upon the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and reveal Jesus as Savior and Lord.
We can do the same.
Last week I spent at least an hour in my office with another Marin county “liberal” in every sense of the word, while this person recounted how life had become extremely painful to the point she felt it would be no loss to simply die. Without bringing up even one element of what we Christians call apologetics, I explained who Jesus is and what Jesus did—the Gospel. With full attention and some tears, this person began to experience a personal revolution.
No conversion occurred, but we are in prayer, and when the new birth comes, then some of her current cherished beliefs that are complete error will slowly disappear, and without much being said.
Two days ago, my wife and I spent an hour or more with a youngish woman who has imbibed the general spiritual and political tone popular in the San Francisco Bay Area. A number of times I wanted to jump in and set her straight. Sure enough, one time I did say something too strong, and she instantly stiffened and recoiled. We could have lost her to further conversation, but I quickly retreated from my need to correct her and returned to patient listening. After a while, she ran out of steam, so there was a slight opening to present something about Jesus.
A lost opportunity
Recently, several of us were sitting together after our church service, and someone we hardly knew joined us. We were talking about politics, and I failed to divert or redirect the conversation into something less problematic. Soon we were correcting this person’s political point of view, and we lost the opportunity to bring the message of grace and forgiveness to a very needy person.
After it dawned on me that we had squandered an opportunity to present Jesus to a spiritually desperate person, I had to ask myself the questions, “What difference did it make that this person held to a liberal agenda?” “Why did we think it necessary to proclaim what we are convinced to be politically correct views?” What we did only served to create an environment where the Gospel was not even mentioned. Pondering about that event gave me the impetus to write this essay.
Informed and not ignorant
Since 1965, when I first moved to Marin County, California, to study at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, I have subscribed to Christianity Today, Time, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Marin Independent Journal. In addition, I watch a number of news programs—NBC, PBS, and a number of other news sources—left, right, and in the middle. The result is I can usually keep up with the best of them. This is only to say that I keep informed and am aware, to some degree, of the world in which I live.
see and understand how easy it is to get off message. I have been the recipient of harangues by those who feel obligated to straighten out someone with opposing views. Yes, it works both ways.
As ambassadors for Christ, we do not want to get lost in the vain philosophies buzzing about like a dangerous swarm of bees. When I was converted I believed all sorts of ridiculous things, both political and spiritual. By God’s grace I did not run into anyone who confronted me about my wrong ideas. They may have thought it, but they knew it was of no advantage to argue about minutiae.
My point is that it is not necessary to correct someone’s political and/or religious views. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus and His kingdom.
Let us go to the work
The early Christians made no attempt to preach a politically oriented message, and contemporary issues were of little concern to them. They had been charged with going into the entire world and preaching Jesus. They trusted in the inner working of the Holy Spirit to bring about change. Politics meant little or nothing to them.
Today it is assumed that evangelicals are all from the same political demographic. How awful and unbiblical! Yet, the impression is now entrenched.
Not arguing with someone about their views is not the same as accepting their views. Clearly, as biblical, evangelical Christians, we do not accept the errant spiritualties extant in our world today— everything from worshipping the universe to shamanism, the occult, psychic spiritual concepts, naturalism, animism, monism, and much more. People will believe in something, and it does not matter much what that is.
But, is political thinking in the same vein? There are Christians who embrace liberal political philosophies. Should this not be allowed? I am politically conservative, but I do not let others know how I vote, and I will not endorse any political candidate, whether national or local. I want to be known as belonging to the Jesus party.
I cannot argue someone into the kingdom of God. The powerful working of the Holy Spirit can turn a hardened atheist into a newborn babe in Christ in the twinkling of an eye, and can utterly change the life of an extreme, immoral, sex-crazed deviant in a heartbeat.
As I come to the end of this essay I am reminded of the wonderful words of the Apostle Paul as found in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Please spend some time reflecting on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.