When I read Matthew 28 v 19-20, I wonder how the disciples felt when Jesus commanded them to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. Did they feel excited by the challenge? Were they eager to share the gospel? Or were some of them even terrified when they thought about overcoming obstacles of different cultures, beliefs, and languages?
During the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been taking some time to learn about other religions and evangelism, particularly focusing on Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Engaging with other belief systems can feel daunting and, while it is helpful to learn about other religions, evangelising to other religions is as much about our mindset as it is about our knowledge.
Share truth in love
Jesus tells us that ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is the second greatest commandment in the Law after "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22 v 34-39). God’s commandment is a challenge to us. We are called to love all our neighbours, irrespective of whether they agree with us, and we are to look to God as our example of love. Jesus lovingly shared his gospel with pharisees, gentiles and Romans as well as his disciples. He was radical in His devotion to others, regardless of background or religion. Jesus calls us to love our neighbour because He first loved us and, therefore, the source of our love should not be from ourselves (because our love runs dry quickly) but we need to be filled with God’s enduring love when we share the gospel with other religious groups.
Listen with patience
When we are engaging with someone who subscribes to a different belief system than us, how much of our time with that individual do we spend listening to them? What really struck me when looking into evangelism is how much time is spent not talking but listening to concerns, personal beliefs, and questions. When we engage with other religions, there is a temptation to place people in neat boxes based on the religion they subscribe to. However, the woman you are talking with may say she is Muslim but, to her, it is an identity and she does not believe in God herself. Or an atheist may claim he does not believe because of ‘science’, but when you give him a safe space to be honest, you might find that he finds the idea of a ‘loving Father’ oxymoronic due to his own parental relations. Listening goes hand in hand with love.
Go boldly in Christ
Nabeel Qureshi, author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, said in an interview for Christ Alone: The American Gospel, "I think now of all the Christians I know and their hesitations to share the gospel […] A lot of it’s just fear of how others might receive us, how others might reject us. But I still think that horridly un-Christian, because the Bible tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love." (see 2 Timothy 1:7) When our highest purpose is to glorify God, and our love for God spills over onto other people, that love should cast out fear. Fear of embarrassment, fear of incapability, fear of rejection. If people reject us, they are not really rejecting us, they are rejecting the gospel and we should not feel personally offended. When Jesus commanded His disciples to share the gospel with all the nations, Jesus encouraged them that "surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt 28 v 20). This encouragement is extended to us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus so we can boldly declare His name, filled with wonder by what He has done.
Next Monday June 8th, we're starting our Globe Connect course again. This would be the perfect opportunity to invite your friends or family to hear the gospel! Or, if you're struggling to explain it to others, why not come along yourself and learn from the experience?