We need to think about how we say things to others who disagree with us about God.
In speaking to those who don’t believe in Jesus, as the Savior of mankind, let me assure you they don’t take kindly to being called lost, ignorant, deceived, or hell-bound. They find it condescending, judgmental, and hateful. If I were a nonbeliever I would not like it either. As a Christian, we have to understand this. We need to “feel” what they are saying and understand that it’s a strong statement we make when we say they are lost or going to Hell. That kind of pronouncement carries with it a lot of emotion and judgment.
We can not be flippant with those words if we want to show that we care. If we are offering the grace of Jesus, we can’t do it from the approach that they are wretched in need of a massive makeover to appease God and really, to appease us. They are no less human and no more unworthy than any of us. We dehumanize people so often with our words all in the name of God. I have been guilty of this myself but I don’t want to continue to treat people as less than human.
That in no way means I don’t believe all people of every race and status are in need of the gospel. Everyone deserves to hear about Christ and needs Him for salvation. My error is insensitivity. I haven’t been as sensitive to them in the words I have used to convey what I believe to be true. We are fools if we think they are not going to struggle with our belief that they are sinners and will go to Hell for eternity in judgment. I mean who wants to hear that! Yet, if we believe that those without Christ are bound for eternity from God then it is the greatest act of love we can give to do everything we can to help them see the way of salvation. Think about it like this: if another person saw me doing something that was harmful to myself and thy intervened, I may not appreciate it in the moment but surely it is an act of mercy and care! I often try to help people who don’t want to admit or recognize their issue(s) but to do nothing feels cruel. No one, I mean no one, is going to shake your hand and thank you for telling them they are going to Hell. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. We have to think very carefully how we speak to those who are without a relationship with Christ. I suggest the following:1) Before you engage them remind yourself that you are no better than them and the same salvation you say they need, you needed yourself. Give grace because you surely needed grace yourself.
2) This goes with the first one but be humble. This is not about your pride or ego or another notch on your belt or winning an argument. You do this because you care about them so prove it in your words.
3) You should dialogue and debate with them but don’t let emotions or anger influence your words. I have been so guilty of this in my debates. There have been times where my ego got in the way or I let anger cloud my judgment. It undermines everything I am saying when that happens.
4) Be prepared for them to attack you. They are not going to like that you lean on faith and not reason. They are going to ridicule it and disrespect you. You need to be honest that you don’t have the proof they want to see and also that you don’t know all the answers. If they don’t believe then give them that right. Respect their decision. Your job is to share and not to convert. You cannot convert people because you do not have the ability to change their heart.
Let’s think through how we engage people with the gospel. Let’s treat them respectfully and lovingly. Let’s be patient with them just as others were patient with us. Hurting people in the name of truth is wrong. We should present the truth with sensitivity and care.