There’s been a lot of discussion as to how Christians should share the Gospel with those who aren’t Christians.
To share the Gospel is to share Christ. I’ve seen so many videos and photos of people holding signs that say things like, “God hates fags.” and “You’re going to hell.” I’ve even experienced some hate-mongering street evangelism myself. I don’t believe these people have any idea what’s in the hearts of those whose attention they’re trying to capture. Do they honestly think they are going to turn someone around to repentance by pointing out hell and condemnation? I’m sure they would ask a question similar to this:
Why would I want to worship a God Who would send me to hell for sinning, something I do just because I’m human?
I’ve thought recently about where I get my ethos for how I share Christ with people. I believe it’s from knowing about Jesus and His ways from the Bible. I think of the Samaritan woman at the well and His approach to her. The passage is from John 4:4-34.
(1) He asks her for a drink because He was thirsty. What could she possibly have to offer Him? He did have a physical need—Jesus was God-Man and was actually thirsty—and in this need, He, a man and a Jewm approached her, a Samaritan (considered half-breeds by the Jews) and a woman. In those days, never the two should meet.
Do we approach those who aren’t Christians ever, for any reason? If we do, I know eternal salvation is always somewhere in our minds if we’re Christians, so then I wonder if we approach them with an agenda? Do we approach with a statement or an assertion? Or do we approach as Jesus did—with a question? Do we engage in conversation? Are we interested in their lives and their ethos and in understanding why they are whom they are?
(2) After He asks her, she expresses her surprise at His countercultural exchange and asks Him why He asked her. When she chooses to engage with Him, He engages back. If we, as Christians, aren’t living lives worthy of our callings (as Paul points out in Ephesians 4:1) then our lives—and Who we worship—will have no appeal to those outside of Christianity. What happened to living a life according to the lyrics of this song, “And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love”?
I know I’ve received backlash whenever I talk about the two greatest commandments (love God and love neighbor) that Jesus teaches to an expert in the law of God in Matthew 22. People think I’m teaching that sin is okay, that we can just ignore it, that we just need to love people.
Judgment without grace is not the Gospel.
Very few people are going to want to know Christ through you and go on to belief in what He says if we are hate-mongering and/or all we focus on are their sins, thinking we aren’t like them.
(3) In my opinion, we have no right to do that. We must remove the log from our own eye. Before Jesus even mentioned the Samaritan woman’s main sin issue, He taught her about Himself. He told her that if she knew God and His gift (living water—eternal life) then she’d be asking Him for it (because who wouldn’t want to live forever in a perfect world?).
The Samaritan woman had to draw daily from the well for water to live, but Jesus offered her Himself—the living water of eternal life.
When we share Jesus with people, we must level the playing field. We are all equal. We aren’t better than the non-Christian because we believe we’ve “seen the light”. The only difference is that we’ve recognized by God’s grace that we are in need of a Savior—someone to save us from ourselves. We’re all at different points on our spiritual journeys. Some may never believe they need to be saved from themselves, but we share Who Jesus is and what He did for us.
(4) The Samaritan woman is intrigued. She wants to know where to find the living water. When He tells her He can give it to her, she asks Him to give her some.
When we are talking about Jesus, do we tell of His abundant love, grace, kindness, servanthood, His love for the least, the last, and the lost, etc. such that they would want to know this God-man? Who is this Jesus is what we should be talking about first.
(5) After she asks to receive this eternal water, Jesus tells her to go and get her husband. When she says she has no husband, he agrees and says that she has had five husbands and that the man she lives with now is not her husband.
I think it’s important to note that only after she talks of wanting eternal life does Jesus bring her sin issue into conversation.
Grace without judgment is not the Gospel.
If someone wants Jesus (i.e., eternal life) then the Holy Spirit, along with those engaged in discipleship in humility alongside him or her, will help the person put off the “old self”—the ugly habits and patterns of living.
(6) When Jesus brings up her sin, she seems to make an excuse that she hasn’t been able to worship God because she has to do it a certain way—go to the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus tells her that the time has come when it doesn’t matter where she worships God. She has no excuse now. He is the Living Water. She can worship God wherever she is, and I believe He is speaking physically and spiritually.
Why shouldn’t we win people over to Christ by talking about their sin first and foremost? Because we are all sinners who are working out our salvation, and by working out our salvation, I mean we are on a journey of daily sanctification—we are always working toward holiness. But we do need to recognize sin, and as God gives us grace for it, work ourselves, and others if they’re willing, toward holiness. But we can’t do this in our own strength. If you’ve actually tried, you know. We need Holy Spirit God to guide us. We need to walk in discipleship with each other, helping each other along.