12th November 2011

Making Friends

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV UK)

Have you ever noticed how step-by-step programmes for evangelism seem to come and go, much like the latest fads in business and management? Programmes might work for business endeavours, where advertising and manipulation of emotions is crucial to selling a product. But the gospel is not a product; it is a declaration of God’s love, and love doesn’t come by programmes.

Love comes in its own way in its own time. It’s something you have to live out, not something you can evaluate on a scale of measurable outcomes. Love isn’t predictable; it’s messy. Sometimes it hurts; sometimes it thrills. But it never sits still long enough to figure it out.

When it comes to evangelism, the main reason most people come to church and keep coming to church is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago—they met people who liked them and accepted them and became their friends. In other words, programmes didn’t do it—love did it.

In John 13:34-35, we read that Jesus told his disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if Christians actually were well known for being the kind of people anybody would enjoy having for a friend. Suppose Christians were not thought of as being pushy and judgmental. Suppose they weren’t known for well-rehearsed spiels designed to press people into a so-called “decision for Christ.” Suppose Christians didn’t make friends with non-believers as part of an evangelism programme, but simply because faithful friendship is what Jesus Christ is all about.

Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. Paul said we should let our conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone. Neither Peter nor Paul said we should press people for a decision. Instead, we are told to live a life of love. We are to make no secret of our faith. But neither are we asked to push it on others.

It’s the Holy Spirit who moves people to ask. And it’s the Holy Spirit who works in us to give an answer that is “seasoned with salt” and full of “grace.”

Holy Father, thank you that we are called to evangelism. Not evangelism as we might think, but according to your model and motivation—in love and stemming from pure love, your love. This is not always easy for us, Father, and so we ask for your involvement every day as we come into contact with others. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach 

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