Monday, April 17, 2006

Jesus Needs to be Converted? A Rant.

Then the King will say, "I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you
did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was
me--you did it to me."

Matthew 25:40

Somewhere along the lines evangelism got mixed up with loving people. FRED (Friendship Relationship Evangelism Decision) is a classic evangelical formula. But if the love between Christians is the primary way we reach the world, does that leave us off the hook for taking Christian love to the world? Hell no!

It does free us from 'loving' people because we hope to convert them. It frees us to love them because Christ first loved us. What do you get the God who has everything? You love his kids.

The good Samaritan is the classic story of being a good neighbour. The first people who heard that story could never imagined a Samaritan evangelising a Jew. Even the miraculous healing of lepers had only a 10% conversion rate. Our programs pale by compassion.

- Peace


Kevin said...

I've been thinking that if the story were told today to resonating emergent postevangelicals, the Samaritan would be replaced by a conservative evangelical or (horrors) fundamentalist. What do you think?

Dave King said...

Rich Republican Fundamentalists!!! Oh the Horror.

steve said...

great post dave

~m said...

love is intrinsicly good, regardless of its effect on the beloved. it always blesses God, even when it feels like you're throwing your love down into a blackhole. that's hard to live, though, 'cause we're result-focused. maybe we need to completely divorce ourselves from results.

Richard said...

I'm assuming this is the "to be continued" part of your earlier post on the indirection of Jesus.

I've noticed that you have made two related but different points. First, evangelism is accomplished through indirect love rather than direct love - quite a mystery. Second, direct love has value apart from any conversions it leads to or fails to lead to.

My wife offers an explanation to the first point of indirect love. Suppose you are a single young man trying to impress an attractive woman. The woman sees through these thinly veiled attempts to impress fairly quickly. What does impress the young lady is a genuine and sincere kindness shown to others.

How does the young man behave towards his mother, his sister, his aunts, or any other woman he has no plans to date?

In fact, indirect love has an aspect of sincerity that makes it less dubious than direct love which is more vulnerable to giving with the expectation of return. (my wife says it way better than I do).

I remember a pastor writing about his efforts to evangelize and the two biggest objections he runs into: the Church is full of people who fall short of the teachings they promote, the Church is full of people who fight each other. He says he has plenty of good answers to the first objection and no satisfying answers to the second. So he tells us believers to stop fighting with each other because it makes evangelism impossible.

On to Dave's second point about direct love having value apart from evangelism and conversion. Perhaps we should view evangelism as one of many ways to love people rather than to treat loving people as a method of evangelism.

In other words, loving others (the second greatest commandment) is an end in of itself - not meant to be subordinated to a "higher purpose" (such as evangelism). Jesus tells us all the Law and the Prophets hangs on the two greatest commandments. Therefore, we should evangelize as a part of our efforts to love rather than loving as a part of our efforts to evangelize.

I think the following quote would remain equally valid if we replace the word 'money' with 'converts'

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a home of bricks - but homeless because of rejection.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta