A simple parable about speaking to people outside the faith:
Imagine that your young son goes missing, and you come to your friend, with tears in your eyes, and you tell him that something terrible has happened to your son. He may even have been kidnapped! So you ask your friend to help you find your son, to set your son free, and to bring him home again.
Then imagine the following conversation takes place—
Friend: I found your son.
You: Yes! Thank you! Where is he? Let me embrace my son.
Friend: Well, here’s the thing, when I found him, he was indeed kidnapped, but what’s more, the kidnappers had brainwashed him into thinking that they were his real family, and that this was the best life for him, and that you didn’t really love him or want him back.
You: No! Tell me that you rebuked that lie and told my son the truth!
Friend: Oh, I told him the truth alright. I told your son that he was doing wrong and bad things, that these people he was devoted to were wrong and bad, and that he had become as wrong and bad as them.
You: What have you done?
Friend: I just told him the truth!
You: You didn’t tell him the truth, you made it seem like I don’t want him, when I DO WANT HIM VERY MUCH. All you did was condemn his behavior. That wasn’t the mission. Why didn’t you tell my son that I love him? Why didn’t you tell him that I want more than anything for him to come home? Why didn’t you make it clear that I don’t care what he has done, I just want him to return to me, and we can work together to make everything else alright?
…In the end, as we try to free those who are captive to their sin, we will have to answer these same hard questions. God holds us accountable, not just for what we say when we’re witnessing, but how we say it.
If it was your son, you’d want it done right too. If you make a mess of things, yet find yourself responding, “but I quoted scripture when I did it, doesn’t that make it right?”, the answer to that is no, it makes things far worse.
Here is what scripture actually says about speaking to people outside the faith:
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 So from now on we don’t look at anyone the way the world does. At one time we looked at Christ in that way. But we don’t anymore. Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come! It is all from God. He brought us back to himself through Christ’s death on the cross.
And he has given us the task of bringing others back to him through Christ, that God was bringing the world back to himself through Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God has trusted us with the message, that people may be brought back to him. So we are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us. Here is what Christ wants us to beg you to do: Come back to God!
Jesus said we should “change and become like little children”, but we’re always trying to come to God like a grown person, full of responsibility and purpose and knowledge. Jesus said He’d rather you depend on Him, trust Him, and love Him back. He’d be happier if you’d just be His kid.
You’ve heard it said that God loves you, but what kind of love are we talking about? Is it an I-have-to-put-up-with-you-even-though-I’d-rather-not-because-we-aren’t-that-close kind of love? Is it an I-guess-I-love-you-despite-your-faults kind of love? Is it an I-love-you-in-a-general-sort-of-way kind of love? I can hear the Lion of Judah roar his protest in anger at the very thought! It’s an I-would-do-anything-pay-any-price-and-cross-any-distance-just-to-be-with-you-because-you-mean-more-to-me-than-you-can-possibly-know, kind of love.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made. All You have made will thank You, Lord ; the godly will praise You. They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom and will declare Your might, informing all people of Your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His actions.
Psalm 145:8-13; other translations say that his compassion rests on “all of His creation” or “all His creatures”
At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us. This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view. It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: “This is it … everything fits … all I ever hoped for is here.”
This is the experience that Peter, James, and John had on the top of Mount Tabor when they saw the aspect of Jesus’ face change and his clothing become sparkling white. They wanted that moment to last forever (see Luke 9:28-36). This is the experience of the fullness of time. These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace.