Passion to communicate the truth of God is a characteristic innate to every born-again Christian. It may at times be dulled by seasons of sin and worldly distractions, but whenever we cast off these hindrances of the flesh and draw near to Jesus, our hearts always long to bring Him to others.
Some believers are wired in such a way that they aren't fazed by awkwardness and don't hesitate even for a second to bring Jesus up in conversation. The rest of us are a bit more timid but no less desirous to radiate Christ in our relationships and speak the gospel, even if uncomfortably, when we feel led.
Regardless of our particular personality traits, the Holy Spirit has wired into all of our new natures a passion to breathe the life-giving truth of Jesus over the "dead bones" of our lost friends (Ezekiel 37).
But can this good desire flesh out in not-so-good ways? Can godly desires to speak about Jesus become mingled with sinful desires and actually corrupt our evangelistic efforts? Can our attitude, tone, and approach in sharing the gospel actually work against the gospel? Can various modes of "truth telling" create unnecessary offense in the hearts of our hearers?
I already know what some of you are thinking — you were thinking it as soon as you read the title of this article: "the gospel is offensive!" Yeah, sure. It is offensive. You'll get no pushback from me on that. But my question is: can we communicate it in such a way that we, not the gospel, are responsible for our unbelieving friends' offense?
Yes. We can. And unfortunately, many of us do.
I'm sure you can immediately envision some zealous truth-telling friend of yours who seems to have zero awareness of how arrogant and mean-spirited they come off when they "share the gospel." I can. I think of myself — the Matt Moore of 2011, anyway.
I was an ambitious but unloving, truth-telling twit for a solid couple of years after my conversion. I had never taken to balance very well, and the evangelistic efforts of my Christian infanthood demonstrated that well. Truth forcefully tipped the scales while love and wisdom floated weightlessly in some place distant from my heart. I was a man on a mission, and my mission was to confront all the godless heathen with the holiness of a good God who demanded their worship!!
I ran to Facebook on a daily basis to ensure my lost friends remained constantly aware of the fiery torment that awaited their wicked souls if they didn't turn to Jesus. I never said anything untrue, but my gosh — it may have been better to have said something untrue than to say true things the way I said them!
I also took it upon myself to assume the role of "theology cop" and ruthlessly corrected all the unbiblical teaching I saw espoused by other Christians. Because I was just sooooo theologically astute (sarcasm), you know — I'd been reading the Bible for a whole three months! When I was in the Arminian camp, I attacked the heretical claims of Calvinists. And then when I (ironically) embraced those "heretical" Calvinistic beliefs, I ceaselessly rebuked the man-centered views of Arminians.
More mature Christians would message me from time to time pleading with me to repent of the unloving attitude that was plaguing — and eclipsing — the truth I was sharing. They would call me out on the Christlessness of my sarcasm and snarkiness. Deeply offended by their accusations, I would assure these cowardly Christians that I was doing exactly what Jesus wanted me to do, and maybe they needed to reevaluate their passion for the proclamation and preservation of biblical truth.
Unfortunately, my "evangelism" — what I now call my "antigospelism" — wasn't limited to social media. I suspected some of my Christ-professing friends and family were not actually born again, which led to not a few contentious conversations. Though I believe my suspicions were and still are warranted and that a conversation needed to happen, I didn't approach these people with the love and humility that such a conversation requires. I confronted them with a prideful pointing finger, harshly accusing them of their hypocrisy. Every single conversation ended with the other person angered by the lovelessness with which I spoke to them and refusing to speak to me for months on end.
Thankfully, through many humbling circumstances (all of which I can't remember — maybe I'm subconsciously blocking them out!), the Holy Spirit eventually got ahold of my heart and revealed my sin to me. He showed me that my motive in my truth telling wasn't solely love for Jesus and others, but mingled in were prideful desires to be right and make sure others knew that they were wrong.
The puffing up of my ego was the end goal of my evangelism (antigospelism) — not the glory of God and the good of others. And because of this, I believe my proclamation of the truth often worked against the Holy Spirit rather than in groove with him. Instead of eyes being opened and hearts being softened by the truth of the gospel I shared, eyes were darkened and hearts were further hardened. It can be rightly argued that the gospel itself can be an "aroma of death" and have a hardening effect on the hearts of those who continue to reject it (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). But I can't say with a good conscience that my snarky, sarcastic, and unnecessarily harsh demeanor played no part in that process.
Believers, it's important we speak the truth — but the way we speak it is equally important. A love for God and for others must envelop every truthful word that comes out of our mouths. A desire to see God exalted and for others to know him must undergird every Facebook status, blog, or email we write. This doesn't mean all our truth speaking should or will be soft and gentle.
There were times that Jesus himself was necessarily sharp in his communication. But you'll notice his holy anger was almost always geared toward the "religious" people whose corrupt attitudes and actions misrepresented the merciful nature of God and hindered the faith of others. Jesus exchanged rough words with people like me — the Matt Moore of 2011. With the morally wayward sinners, Jesus was serious, yet always kind.
He truly fulfilled what was spoken of him centuries before: "He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench" – Isaiah 42:2-3.
There were even times when Paul was sarcastic in his communication. But was he mocking unbelievers? No. Was he mocking those who didn't agree with him on non-salvific issues? Nope. He mocked those who were using their influence in the Church to damage the faith of others. He mocked those who, in their ungodly attitudes and actions, were hindering love and unity in the Church. In other words, Paul was mocking people like me — the Matt Moore of 2011.
I beg you guys, don't be like the Matt Moore of 2011. Soberly examine your heart and be honest about the intentions driving your truth telling. If there is anything there besides love for God and others, it's got to go.
Whether it be a desire to make a name for yourself, a longing to feel purposeful, a desire to be viewed as "right" — whatever it is, bring it to God so that he can kill it. Beg the Lord to do a work in your heart so that your passion to proclaim the truth is salted and balanced by love. Don't just be a vessel; be a useful vessel — one full of truth, compassion, and a burning desire to see others love the God who loves them.
Originally posted at moorematt.org.