I’m distressed that some of God’s people present His message in an offensive manner. The greatest good news of all time gets told in such a way that listeners are instantly angry and resentful. This should not happen. Jesus never intended that we turn people off. Components of the Gospel will upset those who do not acknowledge sin, but the problem should be with that part of the message, not the messengers.
Paul wrote much about being “gentle and respectful” as we speak to those without faith. Today’s reading is about the attitude of Christians as we do what God asks of us.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:1–7)While I’m still trying to figure out some of the reasons for pushiness, there is good advice in this passage. It says I need to be first strengthened by grace. Grace is the undeserved favor of God. This strength produces humility. I am not a Christian because I’m better than anyone else. Instead, eternal life and forgiveness is a gift from God because He is gracious. I deserve His wrath and instead He gives mercy. When I talk to anyone, this is to be my attitude and even my strength. I cannot bring Jesus to others if I do not act like Him. If my “strength” is a rude mouth, it will turn people off.
The word “faithful” is also important. This is loyalty to Christ in that I obediently share Him with others as He commands, but it is also being a trustworthy person. When I interact with others, they should feel safe and respected, not irritated and edgy because I might say something hurtful.
The part about sharing in suffering is a downer, but reminds me that not everyone will want to hear about Jesus. Because He is so wonderful and because I want everyone to know Him and enjoy His grace, I feel sad when there is no interest and even antagonism toward Him. I suppose this could make some Christians pushy, not to change lives but to change that resistance and rejection — instead of suffering.
When Jesus was rejected, He didn’t push. Instead, He said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” This must be my attitude also. If someone isn’t interested in the Gospel, I’m to pray for their forgiveness and leave them alone. This is one of the “rules” implied in these verses. An athlete cannot get the prize if he breaks the rules of the race. I cannot expect receptive hearts if I go against the “rules” or the pattern given by Jesus Christ for offering grace to others.
Being a winsome Christian who is able to effectively share the good news is hard work that involves sacrifice. It means giving up my desire to win the debate and always be right. It means accepting rejection as Jesus did, not fighting people so they will accept me. This isn’t about me. It is about loving people. Biblical love means laying aside selfishness and personal desires for the eternal well-being of others.
It is also about trusting God with the results. When a farmer plants his seeds, he does not keep digging at them to see if they are growing or prodding them to make them grow. This is not his role. In the same way, my role is to share the wonderful news that Jesus died for sinners, was buried, and rose again that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.
Those who hear this news can make excuses about their sin, decide the Bible isn’t true, decide Jesus was not a real person, or simply say no thanks. This is their response and their choice. Heaven forbid that they make that choice only because I am rude, pushy, annoying, self-righteous and offensive.
Lord, I once resisted the truth of the Gospel. I had some antagonism toward those who tried to share it with me. Christians are not perfect, but even then, I knew they meant well. After the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to You, I understood their desire that I be saved. I also know some people will hate anything to do with You. I don’t want that to stop me from being faithful or obedient to share Jesus Christ with them. I just don’t want to be offensive when I do it.