Monday, May 11, 2009

The Difficulty of Evangelizing Loved Ones

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers, kind words, and cards about my grandmother’s death. It’s wonderful to have such a caring church family.

When I first learned that she was very ill and her death was imminent, I was immediately concerned about her salvation. I had not seen her in about 10 years, so I was unable to point to any fruit of repentance in her life in her last years. When we arrived in Texas, she was so heavily medicated that it was impossible to have a serious conversation about spiritual things. I learned from family members that she had professed faith in Christ. They took her at her word and I take them at theirs, still acknowledging that no one can see into the heart of another person to know for sure whether or not they are redeemed. In the end, all we have to go by is the evidence of that faith – good works (James 2:17-18).

Prior to hearing that news, I wondered why it is that sharing the gospel with a stranger can be so much easier than sharing it with a loved one. I think it comes down to the fear of rejection, which is simply one manifestation of pride. What do I care if a common stranger rejects me? I don’t even know that person. But if a family member or close friend rejects us because of our sharing the truth of the gospel, that is different. It hurts. We don’t want to lose them, and conveying the stark demands that Christ places upon those who would follow Him are offensive to those who are in their sins. That loved one will hear the demands of Christ as words of personal attack from us and their rejection of Him will taken as a rejection of us.

But we have to decide if we love our family’s acceptance of us more than we love Christ. Jesus told us to anticipate relationships being strained or broken because of His call on us. He was very upfront about this. It was not His intention to make us popular. Remember His words:

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:32-37 ESV).

If we love Christ we will share the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ with those we love, in spite of how they might react. Our desire to please Him should trump our desire to please them. If it doesn't, we are not worthy of Him.

But in addition to that, we need to realize that if we truly love these people we will be willing to suffer the loss of a relationship in exchange for the possibility of their being saved from eternal damnation by faith in Christ. Make no mistake about it – our reluctance to share the truth with our loved ones is not based on love for them, but rather it is based on love for ourselves and disdain for the personal discomfort that would come with any rejection. If we really believe that the gospel saves and if we really love these people, we will share it with them. Choosing our own personal comfort and acceptance via the path of least offense will always be packaged with a passive resignation to their eternal demise. My silence is my confession that I am okay with their destruction. How is that loving?

So who is it in your life? Who is it in your family or circle of friends who needs the gospel, but you have resisted sharing it with them for fear of turning them off, offending them, or completely losing the relationship? There is a day set in the future for every one of us when it will be too late (Heb 9:27). Let’s love Christ enough to make Him known and to trust Him for the grace to endure whatever consequences may come.

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