There’s a fine line to be very mindful of when it comes to talking to others about God or admonishing or correcting others. I can remember when I first became a Christian and I started talking about God to some of my close non-Christian friends. For some of them who had never been exposed to constant scripture quoting and virtually non-stop discussion about God from me, my “different” interaction with them came across as a bit of a shock. And not only was it a clear departure from how I had interacted with them previously, it also resulted in a significant number of them deciding pretty quickly, to give me a bit of a wide berth. Obviously this wasn’t the old Bruce that they previously knew. And I’m not saying that this was necessarily a bad thing but there definitely was a negative connotation to it.
Of course, now in hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see what I had done. What I really did was literally turn them off. I overloaded them, I bombarded them, I had become the preverbal Bible thumper. And it wasn’t because my motives were wrong, a lot of what happened next type of thing had to do with my delivery, my tone and my lack of consideration for them.
I’ve learned a lot of things over the years with regard to do’s and don’t of speaking with others about God. I’ve learned that there are different methods that can be utilized and different audiences and it is very important to appreciate and take into consideration the differences of these audiences. And the Holy Spirit can do the most beautiful things when it comes to witnessing, right out of the blue. Plus God has graciously provided us with lots of guidance on this often tricky landscape to traverse, in the Holy Scriptures. Obviously this media doesn’t afford the opportunity to cover this subject in any great depth but I will briefly cover some of what I call “the basics”.
FORGETTING WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN
One of the biggest mistakes that new Christians make, is forgetting where they have been. It’s understandable, new Christians are generally enthusiastic and more than eager to share the new life that they have entered into. But it’s no accident that one of the first things that Jesus warned us about is judging others. He didn’t say not to do it, but He did say to first examine yourself before you do it. And as you recall, He recommended that we first remove the log from our own eye before we start going around removing the twigs from other people’s eyes (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV). I’m not going to go into all of the different aspects of “judging rightly” but if you are interested, here’s a previous post of mine that covers the basics: https://bcooper.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/righteous-judgement/
The important part to be aware of is that judgement of ourselves should set us up into the right mindset to make judgements of others. And also of equal importance, there are different areas where judgement is to be used, inside the Church versus outside the Church as with non-believers. The thing is, sometimes in our zeal to be one of God’s messengers we forget to seriously consider all that He has to say on this subject. So take the time to pray about correcting others and remind yourself where you were and who you were and how you thought, before God graciously opened your eyes.
Generally speaking, when you’re dealing with one to one conversations with acquaintances. co-workers and friends, you earn the right to speak to them by demonstrating that you care for them and that they can trust you. That takes time. Learn how to test the waters by casually introducing something that you do such as saying prayers, into your conversation. When people ask YOU a question about YOUR faith, that means they are interested. It’s easy to follow up on that but there is a big difference between them responding to a casual statement about something you prayed about versus YOU asking THEM out of nowhere, if they want to go to heaven or hell. Think gentle, think respect.
1 Peter 3:15 NIV “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
CONSIDER THE TONE AND DELIVERY
I wrote a previous article about tone and delivery, from a “life lesson” incident, if you’re interested, here it is: https://bcooper.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/its-not-just-what-you-say/
CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE
This is what I call self inflected injury or unnecessary distain. Social media is used by a lot of us and that’s fine as long as one exercises some common sense about it. I have a “social” Facebook account and I have a “Christian” facebook account and I very seldom mix the two. My “social” account is for my non-Christian relatives and friends. My “Christian” Facebook account is for my Christian brothers and sisters, including saved family members. To be honest with you, I hardly ever use my “social” account but it does afford my wife and I to have short exchanges and view family pictures with those relatives who are not Christian. I also have a Twitter account and WordPress account that are solely Christian but those who subscribe to my “Christian” media accounts, do so because they want to, not because I am imposing my Christian beliefs on them. Pick your audience and amend your shared material and delivery accordingly. Clearly identify your Christian venues that you use and afford those who are not interested in Christian dialogue to opt out if desired. In other words, don’t deliberately offend someone if you don’t have to. All my relatives and friends know where I stand with regard to my faith and trust in God but they have options.
You probably know what’s coming. 1 Corinthians 13 NIV This chapter from the Apostle Paul pretty well says it all. We can justify all that we are doing because it is right but if we are not doing what is right, in love, then it is just sounding brass. This is where the rubber hits the road and our motive is not to be ignored.
Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
No, it’s not easy. Learning how to witness, when to witness and where to witness takes time, by studying God’s Word, considerable time in prayer and discernment. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made mistakes in witnessing. We would do well to add confession of our sin and asking for forgiveness with regards to witnessing, in here too.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!