Last week I noted that Christianity in a broken and rebellious world is going to be offensive – however, we are not supposed to be. The Gospel and the love of God is the salve for this world’s pain, brokenness and anger. Ed Stetzer writes:
Christians are called to demonstrate this profoundly attractive love in a way that testifies to the Gospel and counters the lies, brokenness and violence of sin. The way we interact with others will dramatically affect whether the world is drawn to Christ’s love.
I have been pondering this over the last week and particularly trying to analyse my interactions with unbelievers. Am I through my demeanour, attitude or words actually driving people away from Gospel salve? I hope not; but I am convinced of this – I need to cultivate curiosity, empathy and humility in equal part and insert them into my interactions in this age of outrage.
Curiosity because the age of outrage encourages a lack of listening and understanding but true communication of the Gospel happens when we actually understand how other people think. At dad’s funeral last Monday one of the wise sages I have often drawn on said to me, the problem with Christians today is that we assume what people think and so preach the gospel irrelevantly into the lives of our friends. I take it what he means is that we don’t know what individual people’s objections to Jesus are because we have stopped being curious with our friends and just go on the attack like everyone else with wild assumptions. Do you actually know why your friends are not believers? Cultivate curiosity.
Empathy because everyone’s belief system is a product of what they have heard and experienced. Empathetic love seeks to understand and relate to the experiences of others and can be powerfully winsome as it draws people in. That is not to say that we sacrifice our revulsion of sin or philosophical clap-trap; rather we approach people knowing the corrosive power of sin and the freedom and relief that comes from know Jesus. Showing mercy and grace towards people and their views at the start will give the gospel a hearing in the end. Cultivate empathy.
Humility because Jesus was humble, willing to engage with sinners in a way that lifted them up without parading himself. Have you ever noticed that Jesus never told anyone to worship him but they did as he demonstrated humble loving service? Humility is not weakness or cowardliness. Humility is being willing to lower yourself in love to listening and understand the culture, worldview and background of those you engage with. This opens the door for communicating the gospel because it reveals you are interested in winning the person instead of the debate. Cultivate humility.
Winsome love moves away from outrage, arrogance and assumption. Especially online. More about that next week.