We had a guest pastor last Sunday. He was a delightful communicator and I enjoyed his presentation, even if I didn’t fully connect with his message. It was a lesson on leadership… but it was a different take than one would expect. He wasn’t talking about how to be a better or more effective leader, he was talking about how we lead others to join us in living a life for Christ. Very interesting! To paraphrase, ‘What we have in us, is the gift we have to share with the world’ he said, “but not everybody wants our gift.We have to know how to offer it and be prepared to not give up too easily when they say they don’t want it.’
As an example he used the story from the book of Ruth. Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah who were both widowed, wanted to stay with their mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi wanted the young women to return to their own families so they could find new husbands and a good future. The women cried and pleaded with Naomi to allow them to go with her as she traveled back to her hometown, but she refused them. At that, Orpah gave up and went away in tears. Ruth wouldn’t take no for an answer and, as the story goes, she says
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
There you have it. When you’re sharing the gospel with someone who doesn’t want to hear it – don’t walk away in tears, stand your ground and plead some more.
In contrast he shared the story from 1Samuel 25. In that story, David sent a gracious greeting to a rotten guy named Nabal. David was hoping Nabal would be generous and share food and provisions with David and his men. Instead, Nabal insulted David and refused his request. When David received word of the offense he ordered his men to get their swords. Together they would destroy Nabal and all his men that very day. But while he was on his way to confront Nabal, Nabal’s wife Abigail went to David with a more than generous supply of food and drink and offered a humble apology for her husband’s bad behavior. She begged him not to kill her husband and all of his men – even though her husband deserved it. She took the blame for the offense and asked for forgiveness.She offered all of the provisions as a gift of peace. David accepted her gift and was grateful to her for preventing him from doing something he would have later regretted. He recognized that it wasn’t God’s will that he attack Nabal, but his pride that made him want to.
His point was this:when our message/gift is rejected, we need to respond like Abigail, with humility and gentleness, rather than pride and anger.
Christians have a gift to share with the world, but the world doesn’t always receive it the way we hope. When our gift is rejected we have to be careful with how we respond. If we get forceful or angry we can cause unnecessary damage and lose all hope that the person will ever be willing to receive the gift of salvation.
Bottom line: don’t get angry but don’t give up.
To that I say, “Yes and Amen! but…”
There were a thousand people in the room to hear the message. Four thousand over the course of the weekend. I wondered how many of them were the sort of Christians who live lives that only vaguely reflect the love of Jesus while trying to convince their friends and neighbors that following Jesus is The Way.
We blow it with unbelievers an awful lot. We say things that God never said but use our interpretation of the Bible- or someone else’s – to guarantee the veracity of our conclusions. Honestly, we can find a scripture to righteously convict, or simply justify just about any nasty, belittling “gift” we want to share with the world…but at what cost? One Christian I know, used Jesus’ words about divorce as proof text that it isn’t possible for a person to be born with a miss-matched gender identity – on Facebook. When I challenged the logic he insisted that particular scripture was very clearly elucidating God’s position on gender. Huh? When I was first learning how to study the Word of God I was taught that you can’t build a theology on what isn’t there. That’s called conjecture not Truth. We should not proclaim that our opinion carries the full authority of the Bible. We can certainly offer our opinion but we have to get comfortable with admitting that our opinions don’t always adequately convey the heart and mind of God. Humility is a beautiful thing.
Google only knows how many Christians have posted churlish responses to anything they disagree with on the internet. With lengthy, puffed-up posts peppered with tactical scriptures, they attack people they don’t know with judgments and condemnation they would likely never express face-to-face. They use a tone that reflects poorly on Christianity with a prideful-ness guaranteed to make everyone who reads it react with anger or disgust. But because they think they’re “right” they post it then pat themselves on the back.
My friends, far better to be righteous than right.
Stick to sharing the Good News of the Gospel and save the rest for when you’re talking to other Christians. Oh, and by the way, make sure you know the Good News you are SUPPOSED to share with unbelievers. The Gospel is simply the story of who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross. The minute you go beyond sharing the joy of salvation for the sinner you have gone into a speech that edifies you and you alone. It doesn’t even matter if what you’re sharing is positively True. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit an unbeliever simply cannot grasp what you are saying. It will either sound like foolishness or hate speech. Neither of which reflect well on Jesus nor touches that place in a person’s heart that opens them up to receiving the Love of God. And isn’t that the point of saying anything at all? Isn’t that the gift we have to share?
We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8:1
Love God, love others, and love yourself. This is how we build up the Church.This is the gift we’ve been given to share. Give it everywhere, in every circumstance, every day. You’ll find that very few people will reject an encounter with the love of Jesus if you keep your opinions to yourself.
In His love and service,