They Know It When They See It
I’ve been prepping for a short study in our adult Sunday School class on evangelism and have run into all sorts of questions that make me wonder if I should be the one leading this. I keep running across issues that make me stop and think. Here is one example:
Jesus put the judgment of our works, including our outreach, into the hands of the outsiders.
He says in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In other words, we are to shine, and the people of the world are the ones who are to see the light and recognize it as such. Our call is to love our neighbor as ourselves and, if it I done right, they will glorify God. This was born out in this story on an atheist’s web site. It tells of a woman giving money to a man purported to be homeless and then praying for him. The atheist concludes with this telling summary:
“She also says a prayer for him and this is the sort of prayer I could get behind. Not because it improves anyone’s situation but because it was backed up by real action. She didn’t just ‘pray’ for him….If faith inspired everyone to do what she did it’d be much harder for people like me to argue against it.”
I wonder how many times we can pull off a real “stump the atheist” moment like this. Most of the time, when we evangelicals try to do that, it is more like some sort of ethics debate we are seeking to win. But this atheist affirms the words of Jesus, although I suspect it might gall him to hear that.
I think the key to this lies in how we see “outsiders.” If we see them as “the neighbor whom I love” rather than “the sinner whose sin I hate” it is much easier to love them and serve them. We don’t need to get hung upon whether we are “affirming their lifestyle” or other such nonsense. The panhandler in the story was holding a sign that said he needed money to buy “weed and alcohol” and she still showed love to him.
It pretty much boils down to this: If someone has to agree with your theology in order for them to agree that what you are doing is love then you are not loving your neighbor as yourself.
People know love when they see it. Is our outreach based on a model like this?