Have you ever been accosted by one of those street preachers that gets in your face and screams at you that you’re going to hell if you don’t repent from your sins? When I worked in downtown
Cleveland, there was one of those guys that
hung around in Public Square
outside of the office building where I worked.
He probably thought he was effectively driving people into God’s kingdom
by scaring the hell out of them.
However, in reality, the opposite was true. Why would anyone want to identify with
somebody like that?
There was a time when I thought the way to convince others who were not Christ followers to abandon their beliefs and follow Jesus was to attack their beliefs, and show them how wrong they were. I never agreed with the screamers that loudly condemned everyone they saw to hell. But if I could just get them to see that their beliefs were wrong, of course they would listen to the truth I wanted them to hear.
I was recently on the receiving end of this type of approach, and it emphasized to me how ineffective it can be to attack someone’s beliefs. A former professing Christian, and now a proud atheist, this person began attacking my Christian beliefs and made a valiant effort to show me how stupid one must be to have faith in God and to use the Bible as the basis for their beliefs. I quickly grew offended and ended the conversation abruptly. From my perspective, he was attacking me and had no interest in what I had to say about my beliefs. As far as I could tell, his only interest was to try to make me see how foolish I was to hold my faith in God.
As Christians, we often do the same when we attack the beliefs of non-Christians. There are appropriate times when it’s necessary to confront someone’s beliefs. However, in my opinion, that’s usually not the best place to start. Instead of immediately putting others on the defensive, share the truth about God. Tell about his attributes of holiness and righteousness and how all mankind falls short of God’s requirements because of sin. Tell about how God loved the world so much that in order to redeem us, he sent his Son, Jesus, to earth as a man, to die in our place and pay the price for our sin. Tell about how freely he offers the gift of salvation to anyone who through faith will believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead to be the complete payment for our sin and will acknowledge him as their savior. Tell about how God wants to have fellowship for all eternity with anyone who will accept Jesus as their savior.
That’s love, and that’s truth. Always speak the truth in love.