Friday, September 7, 2007

Let Them See the Gospel

When people look at me, what do they see? When people look at you, what do they see? I hope they see the Gospel.

John 13:34-35 has been weighing on me lately. In this passage, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (ESV)

During His last night with His disciples, Jesus gave this three-fold command. He tells them "to love one another" three times. Our Lord was clearly trying to make a point.

First, Jesus gives the command to love one another. Then, He refines this by telling them to love one another as He has loved them. This is staggering considering that He was about to head to the cross. Finally, Jesus says that if they love one another as He has loved them, then all people will know that they are His disciples.

This is extremely important for evangelism. Jesus makes it clear that our love for one another will cause others to know that we follow Him. This, then, will open up a door to share the Gospel message. If people see that we are different (because we are followers of Christ), then they may be interested in why we believe and live differently than the world does.

Before Jesus ever gave this command to His disciples, he lived it out. For example, in Matthew 4:23, we read, "And he (Jesus) went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people."

Matthew 9:35 tells us, "And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction."

The pattern that Jesus gave was of loving service (healing) that accompanied His proclamation of and teaching of the Gospel. People saw His love, and thus were willing to listen to His message.

So when people see me, do they see Christ? Do they see the Gospel? I'm afraid that most of the time they do not. What do they see? Well, they probably see someone that they would label a "good person" by the world's standards because I treat my family decently, go to church, and don't drink alcohol or smoke. However, that is not going to cause the world to sit up and take notice.

In the USA, many of our current church evangelism strategies teach us how to proclaim the gospel by telling our stories and quoting some scripture. I see nothing wrong with this, but if it is not accompanied by loving service then it will likely not lead to a person being willing to listen to a Gospel presentation. This may be why door-to-door evangelism is so ineffective.

So, how can the world see the Gospel in me? It is simple really - by loving others. When I use the word "love" here, I am not employing the modern American meaning of some sort of warm feeling. Rather, in the bible, love is clearly an action that shows itself in service toward others. That said, I can cause others to see the Gospel in me by showing love through serving them.

This is not complicated. We all have people in our neighborhoods that need help. We should help because it is the right thing to do. But we should also hope and pray that the service we render will cause non-Christians to ask why we have done so.

Then they will do more than see the Gospel; they will also get a chance to hear it.

8 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Excellent post, Eric!

-Alan

Eric said...

Thanks, Alan.

I have to admit that it is a lot easier to believe (in my head) what is right about the Gospel than it is to act it out. However, if we are not serving others, then what are we doing?

Eric

Alan Knox said...

Eric,

I agree that on our own it is easier to believe in our head instead of living the gospel by loving and serving others. However, since we are not on our own but indwelled by the Spirit, and since the Spirit super-naturally produces fruit - including love - in our lives, the only way that we can live without loving is by living in disobedience to the Spirit of God who lives within us. Can we do that? Can we live in such a way as to ignore the Spirit who dwells within us? Apparently, we can. Hopefully, as we mature in Christ, ignoring the Spirit will become more and more difficult, which means that loving others should become more and more (super)-natural.

I'm not saying that you disagree with this, just continuing this very important discussion.

-Alan

Eric said...

Alan,

I agree with you completely. I'm just saying that it is often easier to say what we believe than to act it out. I realize, however, that if talk is all we do, and is not accompanied by works, then we do not, in fact, actually believe what we say we do. I think James said something about that. Our faith should be visible to others.

Alan Knox said...

Eric,

Yes, absolutely! Our faith should be visible and our love should be visible and our unity should be visible. I'm glad that more and more people are examining these issues and asking the questions about why these things are not visible to the world around us.

-Alan

Eric said...

I think one reason people outside the church may not see a living faith within the church is that we often rely on church programs to accomplish the work the individuals should be doing. I know that opens up a big "can of worms" about church programs. However, I think the connection is real. Programs, whether good or not so good, often lead people into shirking their personal responsibility to serve others by thinking that the church program will take care of it. Within the church, we need to talk much of personal responsibility to serve one another within the body and outside the body.

Bryan Riley said...

Good post.

It also is not insignificant that the gospel is described here as the gospel of the Kingdom.

Eric said...

Bryan,

Thanks for the compliment. I agree with you that it is the gospel of the Kingdom. Unity within Christ's Kingdom is certainly something we should all strive for.

Eric