One of the most important ways for us to engage with our culture is to encourage healthy conversation instead of shutting down conversations. How do we shut down dialogue? By failing to listen. When we are willing to listen to people God’s puts in our path and converse back and forth, we open up the possibilities for building into the lives of others. It’s easy as Christians to think it is our duty to set everyone straight and let them know where they are wrong. Jesus wasn’t afraid to engage with sinners. He asked questions. He loved and did not condemn. He showed us what it looked like to engage with the culture by reaching into the lives of people who needed His love.
Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” He went on to say, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6). So how do we speak the truth of God’s Word, while lovingly reaching out to the culture around us? We must be both gracious and wise in what comes out of our mouths, recognizing that those who do not know Christ do not see life through the same perspective.
Theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.” Often Jesus answered a question with a question. Questions can help us get to the heart of the matter and lead people toward truth. Recently I had an e-mail dialogue with one of my readers that went something like this.
Reader: Do you think ___________________is a sin?
Me: Why do you want to know?
Reader: I want to know if God is mad at me.
Me: Why do you care if God is mad at you?
Reader: I want to know if I am disobeying Him. I don’t want to feel far away from Him.
Me: If you care about what God thinks about you, then you don’t need to know what I think about that sin, rather you need to know what God says about it.
I then led her to the passage in Romans 3 that reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all have a sin problem, and yet God in His loving-kindness provided the solution to our sin problem through Jesus Christ. I led her to passages in the Bible about Jesus, so that she could understand His love and mercy, as well as His righteousness and His desire for your life. You see, we need to lead people to the love of Jesus first, because without Him, picking out this sin or that sin is meaningless and unfruitful. When someone is inquiring about sin, they either sincerely want to know what God thinks about sin, or they are trying to get you to say something so that they will feel offended (and sadly this is usually the case).
The message of the Bible is simple: We all fall short of God’s glory, and we all need Jesus. Our objective is to argue less and point to God more. Often our words can be misunderstood or not received in the spirit which we give them. The most important thing we can do is to refrain from surface-level disputes and instead get to the real issue of the heart. Ask questions, listen, engage in conversation, and lovingly lead people to the core issue of Christ’s love. Remember how Jesus handled the woman caught in adultery? The Pharisees brought her to Jesus wanting Him to condemn her. Jesus wisely and gently responded by pointing out the fact that all have sinned. We all need Jesus. Our job is not to cast stones at sinners; our job is to point to the gospel of salvation.
Instead of condemning, we ought to be engaging and shining the light of Christ. Our first objective is to live biblically and examine our own hearts and motives, repenting and seeking the Holy Spirit’s help in living righteous lives ourselves. As we humbly reflect the love of Jesus in our words and actions, then we have the platform to lovingly share the gospel with a world that desperately needs Him. Am I willing to step out and touch the people who are different than me, just as Jesus did? It all comes down to asking ourselves, “Am I willing to take the time to engage in conversations and build relationships with those who need Christ?”
This is an excerpt from Becoming a Woman of the Word. Click Here for more info.