4/24/13 Arturo about 55
Today I spent a working lunch alone at a nice restaurant – the kind where customers pay for table service and a quiet, uninterrupted environment. Couples and families were enjoying time together and others were having business lunches. I wasn’t going to interrupt them, but one man clearly had some time on his hands, watching a soccer game on TV while eating lunch alone. So should I try to initiate a witnessing conversation? I am well aware of the tension that exists between the urgency of the Gospel and the possibility that we might be rude or insensitive in sharing it. For years, though I understood my role as a Christian to be an “ambassador” of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5), I rarely took the initiative in starting a Gospel conversation for fear of misrepresenting Him. In fact, I was critical of those who did, believing overbearing Christians to be the reason many non-believers rarely ask believers about their faith. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, non-believers complain about bigoted, judgmental, pushy Christians, but the biggest complaint non-Christians have about “Christians” is that they are hypocritical. In other words, though they claim to follow Him, they are far from being like Christ. So the all-important question is “What did Jesus do?” I know He didn’t keep quiet about the Gospel, but He wasn’t known to be rude or pushy either, even though he spoke more about awkward subjects like sin and judgment, and He spoke about hell more than everyone else in the Bible combined. How did He do it? How should we do it? Paul gave some great advice when he wrote: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Col.4) By its very nature, the Gospel is confrontational, as is most of the dialogue recorded in the Gospels, Acts, and the rest of the New Testament. And we can’t forget that no matter how sensitively we try to say it, the Gospel is received differently by those who are saved and by those who are perishing: “To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life”. (2 Cor. 2) So what happened with the man at the table? I asked if we could talk; he was cautious at first but we ended up talking over a half hour. His name is Arturo and to him the Gospel had the “aroma of death”. I had to be very gracious, wise enough to do a lot of listening, making the most of every opportunity, seasoning the conversation with a mixture of respect, laughter, humility, logic, and biblical truth. Arturo believes in a universal god of all religions. He now has a better understanding of that particular God who has revealed Himself throughout Biblical history and in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.