A consistent question I often get is related to whether or not Christians should be liked by the culture. My simple answer has been that Jesus was liked by the commoner, the peasants, and sinners. Thus if we follow Christ, Christians should also be, for sure respected, appreciated, and yes…even liked. This response or challenge comes up all the time. Please read Joshua’s response.
“Hugh, I disagree with your conclusion. What men need is not a more palatable gospel. I’ve studied the Scriptures and found little basis for the relational evangelism that has become so popular in today’s culture. Christ did model relational discipleship, but his evangelism was direct and to the point, often to the point of offending his audience. (The rich young ruler, the woman at the well, etc.) The power of the gospel is in its message, not its delivery — I believe Christians should be bold, to the point, and yes, confrontive, especially in evangelism. That’s what it means to be a “witness.”
My response to Joshua:
“Joshua, I still think you missed my point. I never suggested that we need a more palatable Gospel, in the sense of lightening the message of sin, the need for Jesus to atone for one’s sin, etc. Those aspects of the gospel will never change, but ‘The Gospel’ is much more than those points. The Gospel was the “good news” of not only salvation but the inauguration of kingdom life down here. Blind people receiving sight, the poor and downtrodden being lifted up, the lame walking, prisoners set free, the justice of God winning over the injustice of the world (Isaiah 61/Luke 4) and this “pure religion” from James continues that it means the poor, the least, the lost, the leary get some practical help!
Thus, evangelism should also be good news inviting people to consider how everything can change! Who wouldn’t want that good news to hit our world? Thus, You shouldn’t have to try to make “good news” more “good newsy.” The gospel by its very name and nature is great news! And thus people, who live out the gospel as they proclaim it, should not need to be offensive, blunt, or anything else we normally associate with evangelism.
Stiff-armed by the culture?
The reason we tend to think that the Gospel message will be stiff-armed by our culture is actually because Christians don’t really witness the whole gospel. We only witness verbally the personal conversion part of the gospel. And whenever you separate the message of the gospel from the life of the gospel, you will get some kickback, and you should.
The other point that needs some clarification is Jesus’ confrontation. You assume it was regarding evangelism, but it was actually the opposite. He hammered people about discipleship. That’s why the peasants loved Him. He called out the religious hypocrites. The ones with the doctrine/law/proclamation-focused spirituality but who didn’t live out the way of God. This is why even with the rich young ruler, who was actually asking Jesus about “how to be saved,” Jesus didn’t just say, believe in me and pray a prayer of salvation. He still put it back on the issue of discipleship. “Go sell all your stuff and give it to the poor.”
So, in summary.
Jesus was “kind toward the lost” and his kindness leads to repentance. That’s a salvation issue. And he was harsh on hypocrisy. That’s a discipleship issue.
If people really pattern their lives after Jesus, and who for the sake of their own discipleship, push toward the life of the Gospel in all the facets Jesus modeled, they will win the hearts of the peasants, the lost, the least, and as well, will be the ones who get to share the gracious good news and message of the gospel.
If people don’t like you, it’s not because you’re godly. It’s more likely due to the fact that you’re a hypocrite whose rhetoric doesn’t line up with the real gospel.
The culture will not be impressed by Christians, churchgoers, faithful attendees, followers, or preachers. They will however love true disciples, and it’s the true disciples who will be asked by the culture to share the message of the gospel.