Many Christians don’t seem to like non-Christians. Well, maybe it’s not that they don’t like them as much as they don’t like their beer drinking and their offensive language. And they certainly don’t want their children associating with those children. Such behavior and language may rub off on them.
Consequently, Christians tend to isolate and insulate themselves from lost people. They have confused isolation with separation. Christians are to be separate from the world, meaning we shouldn’t use language and engage in activities that are not befitting a believer. But Christians shouldn’t isolate themselves from non-believers. If Christians withdraw to their Christian circles and have no contact or relationship with lost people, how will the non-Christians ever hear the saving message of the gospel? While not giving in to the morals and ethics of lost people, Christians must love them by telling them about Jesus.
Christians have to enter the non-Christian’s world. Being an obedient follower of Christ is not about safety and comfort, but rather about crossing into a dangerous place of vulnerable compassion. And, for some believers, that’s a terrifying thought. Christians are to love the lost as Jesus loved us.
Following Christ’s Example
Jesus entered our world. He took the risk. He loved lost people. And he was misunderstood and criticized for it. The Pharisees often chastised Jesus for spending too much time with sinners. They were separatists (Pharisee means “separated ones”), holding strict allegiance to the Jewish laws, especially when it came to ceremonial cleanliness. It boggled their minds that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus engaged the lost by associating with humanity. In fact, the most significant example of his love was his incarnation—becoming a man, experiencing temptation, and walking the path of suffering. He moved into the neighborhood, rubbing shoulders with the worst of humanity. He provided a model for Christians to follow. As he entered the world, so must Christians get outside their comfort zones. Christians need to walk across the street, beyond the tracks, and around the globe to connect with people where they are. In doing so, we will take on the incarnational nature of Jesus. We will demonstrate our love by our actions and words.
Understanding Jesus’ Reasoning
Jesus, on one occasion, must have overheard the Pharisees asking his disciples, “Why does Jesus eat with sinners?” Jesus responded, explaining why it was proper for him to mingle with sinners. His explanation was simple. It is the sick, not those who are well, who need the care of a physician. It’s the sinners, not the righteous, who need the gospel’s good news.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for what was lacking in their lives. Sacrifice without mercy means nothing. Their religious devotion lacked the quality of mercy, or they would not have despised sinners in need of salvation. They would have taken the time and made the effort to connect with spiritually lost people.
Lost people need to know Jesus Christ. They are spiritually sick and need the help of the Physician who can heal them. We may be the only person who can reach them. As God has been merciful to us, we extend love to lost people by pointing them to the source of all mercy and grace, Jesus Christ. We must love unbelievers the way Jesus did. Without his passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
Remembering Your Past
Every person, even the godliest, was once spiritually lost. We may have been reared in a Christian home and sheltered from the influence of unbelievers. But at one time we were in the same condition as the worst heathen. On the other hand, some believers were vile and immoral before coming to Christ. They were repugnant, but God’s grace saved them.
Whether we were good or bad before coming to Christ, we were once spiritually destitute. When we found Christ, he saved us. When we consider what Jesus has done for us—the blessings of this life and the assurance of eternal life—it makes no sense to keep our distance from those who need the very One we’ve found. We need to remember what it was like before we came to Christ. Such knowledge should motivate us to share Jesus with lost people.
Minding the Consequences
Because we have been saved, we know the solution to the sin problem. We’ve been saved from the throes of Hell. We were destined for punishment, but now we’ve been restored to a new life. We know the secret and the source of healing, restoration, and redemption. Since we’ve found the cure, shouldn’t we tell others? It would be reprehensible, if not criminal, not to tell.
The fact is, all people suffer from a terminal spiritual condition. Christians have found the cure in Jesus Christ. We know the answer to human frailty. We have the solution to the sin problem. If we don’t tell others, they will remain in this terminal state, eventually dying without Christ. Could some of these terminally ill people be our family members or friends or neighbors? Shouldn’t we tell them the solution to their problem?
Charles Peace was an English career criminal whose burglaries and murders eventually put him in prison to be executed. He was escorted on the death walk by the prison chaplain, who was reading aloud from The Consolations of Religion about the fires of Hell. Peace burst out, “Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!”
Peace’s words still challenge believers to consider the consequences of a Christless eternity. His emphatic words should motivate Christians to tell others, doing whatever is necessary to spare them from eternal consequences.
Focusing on the Presentation
As we share the gospel with lost people, let’s remember that our task is to share the message. The best definition of evangelism I ever heard described it as “presenting the message of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God.” That definition takes a load of responsibility off me. I’m not a persuader; I’m a presenter. The witness’s role is to tell their story. It’s like one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. The presenter shares the conversation rather than pushing for a conclusion. And for many lost people, that is a process, a journey, not a single event. And, for some seekers, it will take longer than others. Remember, we are responsible for sharing the message; we are not accountable for the response.
We may be the only Christian a lost friend knows. We may be the closest missionary they ever encounter. If we don’t share Christ with them, then who will?
Rick Ezell is a pastor and author living in Greenville, South Carolina. You can read more of his writing at www.rickezell.com.