“You can’t handle the truth!”
Ok, admit it. Every time someone says something about “truth” you will forever think of Jack Nicholson spitting out that line. Anyways…
In my own humble opinion, there are two major problems with how Christians view and share the Gospel. It boils down to this: Christians share their beliefs as if there is a one size fits all method, and Christians view the Gospel as if it is just for nonbelievers.
There are no two stories alike, and, contrary to what some might tell us, we are just like beautiful, unique snowflakes. And since we each have our own path and journey, trying to fit what happened to me into the same experience as what happens to the next person is impossible. Sure there are aspects of my life where sympathy/empathy will give what I call entry points into someone else’s life, but there are so many variables that lead up to those common experiences. I share my story with someone knowing that there are things that will resonate with them as well as things that won’t, and I listen to their story in the same way.
My husband recently quoted what Francis Schaeffer said about sharing your faith, “If I have one hour to spend with someone, I would spend 55 minutes asking questions finding out what was troubling the individual and then the last five minutes answering those questions.” I think too often Christians dive head first into a battle of wits with others, arguing finer points of theology and doctrine, harping on issues that may not even be the real issues of a person’s heart, and further pushing that person away from true belief and repentance. I have witnessed a believer skillfully wear a nonbeliever down like a high school debate club match and I found that a finely crafted argument, as well intended as it may be, can do much more damage than good.
One size does not fit all, and just like a 3 month onesie does not fit my 3 month old any more, our way of sharing and relating the good news of Jesus is tailor made to the person, to the time and place. Like Paul shares in his letter to Corinth:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Cor. 9:19-23 ESV
In many ways, when Christians attempt to squeeze someone who does not believe like a square peg through a round hole, we are saying in essence that you first have to be like us to become like us. It really doesn’t make sense. We look for conformity more than anything. You have to agree with me in some undesignated number of ways and then we are really on to something. Not in so many words we are saying that the gospel changed me to be better than you and you need to be better too.
What we often fail to remember is that the good news is not for that one moment in time when we first saw the light and wa-la! Like kissing a frog and becoming a prince, we think that in that instant we crossed some imaginary line in the sand that says good people here, bad people there. I have come to know that the gospel is still for me as much now as ever and that I need to be reminded of saving grace that not only redeemed me from the pit of sin and hell, but also sustains me through daily living and gives me constant hope and confidence in a trustworthy God. I need the gospel as much as the person who has never believed the gospel. It isn’t an us v. them mentality when it comes to salvation – it is us, all of us. There are none righteous, no not one. And it is by God’s grace alone that I saw the light and followed it. And like the wise men of old who saw a great miraculous light and followed it, I need to remember what I have witnessed and who I have worshipped and return to the rest of my life remembering and sharing these things I have come to know. Too many times, Christians act superior as if part of some elitist club – like if the wise men went home and bragged, yea we saw the Savior of all mankind and you didn’t. Don’t you wish your story was awesome like me? Don’tcha?
Truth is – the one you can’t handle – we all need grace from beginning to end. We all get grace in different ways. We get all the grace we need and what we are given from God is enough. Try as we might to make others see our point of view, we cannot. Just like no one else could make me see. When I was at my most defiant, running from God, shaking my fist in His face (oh the grief I bear in remembering where I have been) I was incapable of hearing the good news, no matter how eloquent the speaker of it. But in His mercy, God and God alone changed my heart and drew me back. I wish I could say that everything changed immediately, that life has been smooth sailing ever since. But I can’t. And on second thought, I don’t wish I could say that because the lessons I’ve learned, the truth I am still learning even this day, are all for my good and for His pleasure. Oh the grace I have found and felt deeply these years of letting the gospel truly take hold and change me, how sweet it is to trust and find rest in Him. How I tried to find my peace through so many other things, only to find fleeting happiness and empty glory. But in His perfect timing, I was drawn to Him and cried out for mercy. I am and will always be learning more and more of His mercy and goodness to me.
For me, I believe that clinging to the grace I need to live and grow up (because even adults need to grow up) will be all the witness I need to bear to others. My life, with all its pain and sorrow, and joy and blessing, shows how grace works and changes a person, how a life submitted to God is not perfect, nor is it better because of how great I am, but that it shows how God makes beautiful things out of chaos and darkness. My story isn’t for everyone and doesn’t mean much to some. But I have confidence that when God is calling you, your story’s path will end up next to mine.