Sharing Both Sides of the Gospel
Updated: Jan 8
Most everything Jesus said or did evoked a response from others?
To the man who was rich he invited him into his grace, but challenged him to get away from his idol of money. To the woman caught in adultery he forgave her sins, but challenged her not to sin anymore. And so it goes.
There are millions of stories of people who decide to come to Christ only after they had been challenged by the radical demands of his love.
Being politically correct and culturally sensitive has it's drawbacks. We are really good at sharing the love of God to others. We tell them Jesus cares, and that we care for them, too. After most encounters we walk away praising God for the witness of his love we’ve had on others that day. But truth be known, we didn't even skim the surface. God would have had us share much more than, "God bless you."
We are quick to say the “Jesus loves you just the way you are” part, but hesitant to say the “and he loves you too much to keep you as you are” part.
When I think across the years to all the people who have influenced me for the Gospel (and I mean REALLY influenced me) I’m hard-pressed to remember anyone who simply said the “Jesus loves you” part. The one’s that told me straight out that I needed to do this or that or get out of this lifestyle or encouraged me in one way or another with an "in your face" challenge … these are the people I gleaned life from, people who have really made a difference in my life. I really don't remember the others. Except for, of course, that they were... nice.
At the end of the day I believe we are all called to be people like that. People who get the balance between the invitation into grace and the demands for an all out surrender to the Lord Christ. But that takes guts. I might offend someone I’m grooming for the Kingdom. For people-pleasers, this is the ultimate leap of faith.
How about this: Jesus loves you and you need him. But you'll have to die to have him.
I often think of John Wimber sitting in a 747 when he saw the word adultery written across the forehead of the person sitting across the aisle from him.
"May I speak with you?" He asked.
He told the man what he saw. The man was busted. He was so busted that he wound up giving his life to life to Christ. Later that same flight his wife too, after hearing her husband’s confession, came to Christ.
Jesus got away with both invitation and challenge (some some of us can, too) not merely because he did all things right, but because one essential ingredient was at the root of everything he said and did: Love.
When people know you love them - I mean really, really love them for who they are and not for who you want them to be - you can tell them pretty much anything and get away with it.
The Apostle Paul knew that as well. in his letter to Corinth reminds his readers the the essential thing.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
(I Corinthians 13:2)
I see so many things that I know grieve God's heart. So many of us are like lemmings off the cliff. We don't know why. "Everyone else is doing it so why not me too?" we say. But I've learned to temper that dismay his way, and be non-judging love instead. If was to flat out say, “That thing that you’re doing is grievous to God” without love in my heart and a real sense of compassion in my expression, I'll never see them again and do more to deter others from Christ than bring others to Christ. On the other side, if I was just to say the cushy stuff without the challenge to repent I may have done more to cripple them their search for the Lordship of Christ than to help it.
We've all been there. The answer is balance. Without hearing love, I could have never repented (or have the power to repent.) Without hearing about the sin in my life, I would have been clueless as to the holiness of God, and his provision in Christ. People who walk the talk have authority and accessibility into the hearts of others than anyone else in the world.
The results of giving authentic loving challenges are fruitful. The rich man walked away, aware of the high demands that Christ places on all who seek to follow him. The adulterous woman arose from her life of shame, aware that her behavior has real repercussions on her soul. And the man with adultery written on his forehead wound up getting saved.
In the long run, authentic loving challenges do more to help people than hurt them.