Proof of Jesus in our Actions
Apologetics is the religious discipline of defending or proving the truth about one’s religion. Although some would argue that Christianity is not really a religion, there is information that every Christian needs to know to be able to defend and prove that Jesus Christ and his saving works are true. With all the different belief systems and ideas moving through our society, we need to be able to show others genuine and honest evidence that Jesus is who they need, that God is the creator of this universe, and that he is very real and alive and active in his endeavors to help them.
Your love Matters
I recently heard someone say that the best proof (apologetics) we have of Christianity being true and real is Christians themselves. He said the way Christians act and relate to others is the best evidence to the world that Jesus is the answer, that Jesus is truth and life. Of course, this would mean that Christians are being good imitators of the love and kindness as shown by Jesus. One of the commands of our lord Jesus, and also one of the prayers by the apostle Paul for us, is that we have love for one another and love for all.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.Joh 15:12-13
and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,1Th 3:12
We are truly living in some very good times to be able to display this love for one another and to those around us that have not named Jesus as lord, yet. No matter where we turn there is so much strife and conflict and uncertainty and division and…and …and. Your love for a hurt and confused and possibly hateful person will certainly stand out in blatant contrast to the minimizing and indifference that they might be all too aware of in their interaction with others. During these difficult days we need to not withdraw our attempts to love and reach out to others and help with their difficulties, but we need to be bold and confident because we truly have answers and help for a dying world.
Rejection, I hate it! Have you ever woken up in the morning and looked yourself in the mirror and said ‘I certainly am looking forward to any and all rejection that I can experience today’? If you are like me you probably don’t relish the idea of rejection, and probably would much rather prefer acceptance and affirmation instead. But, until we can take rejection and suffer being criticized, we won’t be bold in our pursuit of reaching others. In fact, Jesus even mentioned rejection and the correct attitude to carry when we are rejected.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.Mat 10:14-16
When people do not receive you (that’s pretty personal) nor hear your words (still pretty personal even though we are telling them the words of life) we are to simply shake off the dust from our feet. You see, we need to keep moving forward to find the good seed, those who truly want God, who are hungry for truth and want answers. We should not be wounded by the rejection to the point we are undermined.
However, don’t be in too big of a hurry to move on because you have experienced a rejection or an insult or put down. Have thick enough skin to continue to go back into a challenging relationship and love that person in spite of their rejection and/or hatred. When we make up our minds we are going to obey Jesus’ command to love, we have to be willing to tolerate the discomfort we will unavoidably experience. Notice that Jesus doesn’t give a time frame of when we are to depart from a city after not being received or heard. Perhaps we are too quick to move on after one initial rejection because the pain is uncomfortable. It is very easy to say, ‘well they don’t want to hear about Jesus, let’s pack up and move on to more pleasant people’.
Plant and Water
There is no way of knowing for sure what effect we are having on many of the people we interact with over the course of our lives. So many times I have wanted to be efficient with my time in finding people who are interested in repenting and getting saved, and I have hastily necessitated a decision or a commitment from them without allowing ample time for them to consider deeply what the decision will mean for them, without allowing them to being able to see my life and the fruit produced by following Jesus.
But in my attempts to be efficient, I have often damaged my ability to be effective. It is almost always impossible to be efficient with people because there are so many emotional loose ends that end up taking longer than we have scheduled. Often people need to not feel pressured into making a decision, to have room to consider what they are getting into. Better to be effective than efficient.
Many times we hear about spectacular conversions of people coming to Christ. And of course this does happen at revivals or other life altering events. We need to be ready to supply people with the truth at these times. However, there are by far more people who come to know Jesus over a course of time, and sometimes through many exchanges from many different people. Jesus said that he would personally build his church, and something for us to remember is that Jesus brings people and situations together into the lives of the people we meet to help in his building.
On a construction site, usually there are many different contractors who bring different skills at the right time during the building project. The foundation people show up first, then the framers, followed by the mechanical people including plumbers and electricians. It is a process that requires time and planning. Our lord Jesus is very good at putting us into others’ lives at the right time so that we can be a part of the building process that results in God giving growth. Even the Apostle Paul knew that there are others involved in the growth process.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.1Co 3:6-7
My wife and I were at a restaurant eating with a neighbor of ours that we have befriended. We of course have the hope of sharing the good news with her, and do so in little tiny bits. She has, through the course of our friendship, been very outspoken of her non-biblical views. She has listened briefly to some of the points we have made about God, but mostly changes the topic quickly. She also has a few tattoos that she has collected over the course of her life.
As we were at this restaurant, she mentioned the hostess who had these beautiful tattoos all over her arms. She told us tattoos like those are called sleeves. As the hostess came by our table, our friend mentioned to the hostess how nice her tattoos were. This hostess asked if she could share the story of her tattoos with us. She sat down and started talking about her life and how she was into drugs and other very dark situations, and as she pointed to her arms, from one tattoo to another as they all tied together, she explained her journey out of darkness and into the grace and salvation of Jesus. Part of her tattoos where a stairway leading out of pain into light. Our friend was quiet and did not have much to say after the hostess left, until she changed the subject again.
This was such a great example to me of how our Lord is in the process of building his church and bringing different people together to plant and water. We may not always be the one who gets the joy of seeing the actual conversion in another’s life, but we should be filled with joy that we get to be a part of the process of planting and watering, realizing that we are not the whole process. In fact we need to pray that others will be sent to the people we love, so that there will be a concentrated effort leading them in the right way.
We have heard stories about loving the unlovable. Actually, there probably is not a person who is unlovable, but rather they are people who have been so hurt by people that they are suspicious of anyone who may want to get close to them, seeing the relationship as another chance to be hurt. They want to be loved, but their previous experiences taught them that it is not safe to allow people to get too close. Emotional pain is pain, different than physical pain, but still something we try to avoid at all cost.
As we encounter people in our lives, we are bound to come across people who are so mean and rude and hateful that we really want to either get away or return in an equal amount of force their hate and rudeness back to them. When we get into relationships with people who have been hurt, neglected and damaged by people, we need to realize that we are probably on a one way street where our love and giving to them is probably not going to be reciprocated. We are going to be the who pours into their life the love and kindness that they are or were neglected of by people.
Love Them in Spite of Them
As John Townsend says in his book, Loving People, “…people who truly love someone do so because of what is inside them, not because of the good qualities inside the other person…love should be based on your concern for the needs and betterment of the other and not on how much they appreciate us, for that is how God is with us…In reality, love is at its best, and you are at your best, when you care about people who are not very lovable. This is because those are the ones who need it most.”
Perhaps your love and kindness towards a hateful rude person is part of the planting and watering process in their lives. We all need acceptance and recognition in our lives, and sadly we are surrounded by so many who have received very little validation. Once we have been encouraged and loved by God and His people, we are in a good position to be able to be part of the solution.
We do not have to be accepting and condoning of the sinful actions of others, but we do not have to be pointing out all their flaws before they come around to realizing that we love them and are willing to fight for them and be there for them even when they are being ugly in their conduct.
As I recently heard, our job is to do the catching and then we allow Jesus to do the cleaning. We can do a lot of good when we love people as they are until they are assured enough of their intrinsic value that they can venture into change. I recently said to a person, “I hope my love for you shows you a fraction of the love God has for you.”
If indeed our lives are the best proof for Christianity being true, let us prove it with all the love and commitment and courage to those who don’t deserve it. I leave you with these famous words spoken by Jesus.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”Luke 6:26-28