How should we talk about Jesus to someone that opposes the message of the cross?
As Christians, we are called to love others. Unfortunately, in our zealousness, we fall short of this command many times. Usually, when we fall short in the love department, it is towards those that are opposed to the message of Jesus.
In my more than a decade of being a Christian, I have had my fair share of conversations with non-believers. What I have discovered is that when we show love in tangible ways, our message is not opposed. For example, if we feed the poor, clothe the needy, fight injustice, or show love in many other tangible ways, there is usually no opposition to our message.
However, when we move beyond just serving and begin to open our mouths to inform others of the message of the cross, then that is when we begin to see our opposition rise. Or, when we talk about the exclusivity of Jesus, you can be assured to receive verbal opposition. People do not like the message of the cross and at many times it is vehemently opposed.
In a modern context, we saw this play out before our eyes. About two weeks ago (from the moment of this writing), the message of the cross was vehemently opposed by a United States Senator. Now, just for clarity, this is not a political post and I refuse to get into the realm of politics and faith, but I am simply writing to point out how the message of the cross is opposed.
During a confirmation hearing for a man named Russell Vought (nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget), Senator Bernie Sanders had an opportunity to question Mr. Vought. What we see is the Senator questioning the faith of Vought (a Christian), and ultimately the exclusivity of Jesus, because of an article that he wrote at his Christian Alma Matter. Vought wrote in an article, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”
Because of this statement about Christ, Sanders responded to Vought, “I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America, I really don’t know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?”
In response, Vought simply said, “Senator, I am a Christian.”
Senator Sanders then responded, “I understand that you are a Christian. But this country is made up of people who are not just—I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”
Vought, again responded, “Senator, I am a Christian.”
Based off of Mr. Vought’s statements, Senator Sanders concluded, “In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world…This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”
In this dialogue, we see two things happen. First, Senator Sanders is opposing the message and exclusivity of Christianity. Second, Mr. Vought responds from a position of control, a sound mind, and graciously.
So here is the big question, what does the Bible teach us about how we should respond to people that oppose the message of Christianity?
Before we answer the above question, I would be remiss If I did not first answer how we should not respond to those that oppose the message.
First, do not respond:
1) With anger
2) With arrogance/pride
So then, how should we respond to those that oppose the message of Christianity?
1) We respond with graciousness
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
2) We respond with mercy
22 And have mercy on those who doubt;
3) We respond with Gentleness and Respect
1 Peter 3:15
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
4) We respond with integrity, dignity, and sound speech
6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
5) We respond with patience
2 Timothy 2:24–26
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
As God’s ambassadors, we must represent the King of kings well. We need to handle ourselves appropriately. If anyone had the right to get angry at those who opposed the message of the Cross, it would have been Jesus. But what we learn from our Savior is that we should have patience, love, grace, and mercy towards those that doubt. Jesus, down to His last breath, loved well, even to the point of loving a thief on a cross that spent time mocking and ridiculing Him. There is no place for anger, wrath, and condemnation in our speech to others about Jesus. After all, the Bible tells us that the loving kindness of God draws people to repentance, not anger, condemnation and wrath.
Love well Ambassadors!