There’s an important question every non-Christian is asking. And we Christians, at least in my demographic, are just now beginning to realize it.
Every unbeliever is asking us Christians, “Will you love me even if I don’t accept your Jesus?”
For too long I, and most evangelicals I know, have approached sharing the Gospel as “the goal”. When we meet an unbeliever, our chief objective is to verbalize the Good News as quickly as possible and “seal the deal” on their salvation. If we are met with resistance (and why wouldn’t we be, having not invested in the person at all?), we give up on that person and move on to the next.
Which means we are answering their question with a very loud “NO!”
Sharing the Gospel like this communicates to unbelievers that all we care about is their making a decision to accept Jesus and the Bible’s teaching about Him. To be sure, we are very much concerned they believe in Jesus. But if that’s all we care about, then unbelievers become statistics, in our minds as well as from their points of view, losing their values as people and as individuals.
And I don’t love statistics.
I don’t love numbers. I may get a little excited when the church announces figures each year of the number of people “saved”, the number of baptisms performed, etc. That might cause me to ooh and ahh for a moment. But I can’t recall last year’s stats. I have no idea what the numbers were. Because I don’t love numbers.
I love people.
People have faces and stories and hearts and needs and wants and baggage and hopes. And when we begin to change our perspective on evangelism, we begin to value unbelievers for who they are, regardless of whether or not we ever get a chance to share Jesus with them.
Our evangelism formula changes, then, from:
I share Christ → You accept Christ → We form a relationship
We form a relationship → You may or may not accept Christ → We continue relationship
This shift in perspective is necessary not because we value the Gospel too much (there is no such thing) but because we – I – value people too little. We don’t love people as Jesus loved people. He was motivated to love people because of their innate value as people just as much as He was motivated by His concern for their having an eternal relationship with the Father.
“Just as much”?! Someone’s spending eternity in dark, torturous hell seems a little more important than whether or not I love them well, you might argue.
It’s easy for me to think that. Logically, that makes sense. But my logic is not always God’s logic (Isaiah 55:9). So we must ask ourselves, is this idea biblical?
What did Jesus teach us about loving people?
“‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,'” (John 13:34).
How has Jesus loved us?
“‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you,'” (John 15:9).
How has the Father loved Jesus?
Well, as a parent myself, I can imagine the Father loved Jesus with every fiber of His being, investing huge amounts of time, emotional energy, and unlimited acts of service in His Son. And Jesus loves us that intensely. And Jesus wants us to love others that intensely as well.
“‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,'” (John 13:35).
Unbelievers will scratch their heads. “Why do these people love others so well? HOW can these people love others so well?!” And, because they feel loved by us and are comfortable in our friendship, they will ask us these questions. We will then be able to share Jesus with them. And if they don’t accept that explanation or choose to adopt it as their own, we are to keep loving them, per the argument above.
Jesus commands us to share the Gospel (Mark 16:15). But He also commands us to love one another (John 13:34). He is concerned with both aspects. Are you?