Monday, October 20, 2003

Who is my Enemy?

For the first time in history, there are people in our own neighborhoods that fit the evangelical description of missions rather than evangelism. If evangelism means sharing Jesus with those who don't believe in Him, and Missions means sharing Jesus with those who don't know there is a Jesus to believe in. Now there are folks living down the street from you who don't know there is a Jesus to believe in; especially college age and younger. Their parents were apathetic about the gospel and like an unimportant anecdote from childhood, they've never passed it along.
We teach cultural difference and tolerance so as to prepare potential missionaries in the foreign field while we condemn the culture in our own country and grow angrier by the minute with the behavior of our neighbors. We see "them" as the enemy rather than the harvest.
To continue to teach evangelism in terms of convincing people to behave according to what they already know is right, is outdated and no longer effective. Almost invariably, I hear people talking as if those with whom they are sharing already believe what we believe, but just have to be convinced to behave accordingly. Why else would we be so angry with non-believers when they act like non-believers? Why else would we not see them as the harvest? We have got to realize that these people are not consciously behaving contrary to their beliefs, but in fact, see nothing wrong with their lifestyles. We assume that they share our beliefs. I am constantly offended by bigots who spout off to me with all kinds of racial slurs and comments as if I too feel as they do. I see it as arrogant, uneducated, and simple-minded. I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "Don't assume I share your prejudices". I want that bumper sticker. I also saw a bumper sticker that read, "Jesus, save us from your followers".

We ask, "Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to God"? And we argue, "but Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me". This argument is cyclic, a strange loop, and to someone who doesn't believe either, neither statement proves the other. My training to be a teacher taught me that I can't use procedures that don't serve my objective. I can't convince someone of something they don't believe by arguing something else they don't believe. My training to be a learner has taught me to see everything as a symptom of a problem rather than the problem itself. Then I will trace the symptoms to the root. It is much easier to treat a symptom and pretend we've fixed the problem. We argue against specific sins with scripture. That assumes that the specific sinner believes scripture. We stand on the street corner and tell them that they will suffer God's wrath. We assume they believe in God and therefore are concerned about His wrath. We have to treat behavior as a symptom so that we can identify its cause. I can't imagine a doctor who would say, "get rid of that itch and come and see me so we can treat your poison ivy". Of course we know that the itch is caused by the poison ivy and that treating it, will rid us of the itch.
We don't let people see our burden for them because we don't have a burden for them. People "heard" Jesus because they felt that He truly cared for them. They responded to His love, and therefore trusted what He said.

©2003 rod lewis