Two years ago, my church opened a class for non-believers to explore the beliefs of the Christian faith. In all honesty, we were not sure who would come. But class after class, we were surprised by the diversity and number of persons interested. People of varied ages and backgrounds attended these classes, bringing with them a wide range of questions and perspectives.
In these classes, no question was off-limits. We had to deal with a vast swathe of topics (from evolution to apparent biblical inconsistency) and crack our minds as we ploughed through difficult sections of Scripture. In time I have come to see that outreach in this context consists of two parts. We had to answer honestly and skilfully, and we had to love the participants. Each statement was more than just a question in search of an intellectual answer, but a revelation of the existential and deep cry of the heart. I would like to share three statements that stumped me because they revealed a deeper need.
- “The problem I have with Christianity is that it is too good to be true.”
This stunner came from a very accomplished 50-year-old businesswoman. It left me stumped for a while. And she wasn’t the only one to make this remark in subsequent classes.
To be perfectly honest, this is the hardest comment I’ve ever had to deal with, not because the intellectual answer was difficult, but because it reflected so much of my own journey with Christ as well. Why you might ask? Well, that’s because we have spent our lives working hard to earn the right to be loved. You behave, you get rewarded. Good grades and you get a pet dog. It’s always performance before acceptance.
But Christianity flies in the face of this. Christianity whispers acceptance inspite of our poor performance. Not only did Jesus bear the penalty of our sins through His death on the cross, He also lived a perfect life and conferred His righteousness on us. Godliness is a result of first being accepted by God.
For the 50-year-old participant, love and forgiveness were given so freely that it confounded her. How do you tell her that she is loved even when she was rebelling against God? It runs contrary to everything she had learnt from her past. Everyone wants to be loved, but so few really learn to accept it like a child.
- “Where was Jesus when the babies starved in Africa?”
People who raise this question usually hold one of the two following motives. Some ask with the intention to debunk Christianity; others ask this question because they genuinely seek answers to some deep personal pains or hurts from the past. It is easy to provide an intellectual answer to the former inquirers, but to give a satisfactory answer to the latter is a mammoth challenge.
I have come to learn that some of these inquirers have lost parents or loved ones, while others have faced failure and disappointment on a massive scale, and yet others have been dealt a poor hand in life. They were like C. S. Lewis when he was a child, praying in his room with tiny hands clenched, crying out for God to save his sickly mother who died that very night.
To these persons, I learnt that to simply give them an intellectual answer is strangely unkind. But how do you point them to the sweet whisper that calms the raging storm of a broken heart? When faced with this, I have learnt that the most powerful way to share the precious good news is to love the questioner and reach out to him or her as Jesus would. Unconditional love. Period.
- “I believe in what you say about Jesus, but I don’t feel the impetus or anything in my heart to accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord now.”
It is the contented, postmodern man that breaks my heart like no other. Life in my country is comfortable. We have a high per capita income, and no cause for worry about basic necessities.
Such individuals might say, “Things are swell and having Jesus in my life adds little more to my happiness. Yeah, I know about hell and all that, but I am still quite young and fit. It is good that Christianity is true for you, but it is not for me at the moment.” To such a person, I have come to realize that sharing the gospel is not just hard work, it is impossible work. The secret to winning such a person over is not in our wisdom or our persuasive abilities. Only the Holy Spirit can pierce the stone walls of a man’s heart. And it pushes us to pray like never before. For prayer is the cry of a helpless evangelist calling upon the King who can forgive more than we can ever imagine and do the impossible in a breath.
Written by Charles Ng for YMI
Click here to view “Editor’s Picks: Top 3 Articles | Church“