Spring is the time for cleaning, right? There’s certainly been some real Spring cleaning going on at our place. It’s not the garden variety tidying up the bedrooms. This is serious stuff. Recently I’ve been preparing the external walls for re-staining. It requires stripping back much of what was already there and the best thing I’ve discovered to use is a high pressure hose. It really cleans the timber up nicely and is fairly quick to do. All in all it seems to be the right tool for the job.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. While it’s great at stripping the walls, it hurts when you get yourself. I’ve hit my bare feet a few times by accident when I’ve been cleaning our deck. It makes me jump every time. Partly it’s because it simply stings like nothing else and partly because it is such a shock. I understand why there’s a little sticker telling me not to shoot it at people. In a weird way all of it reminds me a bit of how we share the gospel of Jesus.
I believe the gospel is powerful. Just like the high pressure hose the gospel can change things. It has the power to change people – to wash away our own spiritual dirt and grime and restore us into a living relationship with God. What a privilege it is for us to be able to share this with others. But we need to know how to do this right. We need to learn how to apply the gospel to others in ways that show them the love of God that we have come to know. I say this because we sometimes do it wrong.
Recently I was watching a Louis Theroux documentary about Westboro Baptist Church in America. People in this community believe they are sharing the gospel. They do it by picketing funerals, protesting and lobbying but their message is one of hate. The way their message comes across is ‘join us or God hates you’. This is tragic (and not very effective). Yet they don’t see it this way. For them it is all about sending their message. They don’t see it as being their fault when people don’t respond. Instead it is perceived as their being unrepentant.
I imagine none of us go to the extremes of Westboro but aren’t we tempted to? I’m not talking about their actions but rather their attitude. Aren’t we tempted to approach sharing our faith a bit like a broadcast or selling pitch? It’s so much easier to share our faith with strangers who we will never see again. We can tell them all about Jesus and what he has done and if they don’t respond, well hey, that’s not our fault. I mean, we’ve done our job, right? We’ve told them the gospel.
The problem is that it’s a bit like shooting them with the high pressure hose. It just hurts. The high pressure hose isn’t made for this and neither is the gospel. The message of Jesus isn’t for broadcasting but for engaging. When we share the gospel with people we are inviting them to engage. Just think about the word ‘sharing’. It implies relationship. We offer them our experience of life with Jesus for them to judge and test. If the power of the gospel changes people then we need to be willing to show others that and not just tell them. Some people still won’t respond to the message of Jesus but they have engaged with it.
Why does any of this really matter? Well, I’m a follower of Jesus and I find the broadcast approach of spreading the gospel completely unappealing. If it is the case for me as a Christian, I can only imagine how it seems to those who don’t know Jesus. Could it not be that what they are turned off by isn’t the message but the delivery? To say ‘I’ve done my job’ is no excuse. The gospel is powerful but we also need to consider how we present it appropriately and not as a way to harm people.
And by the way shooting your foot with a high pressure hose really does hurt.