My wife, Jennifer, and I took our two children up to the neighborhood pool late yesterday afternoon to wear them out a bit before bedtime. For some reason, Sundays are not conducive to nap times so a little time in the sun and water always does the trick. After an hour so, I overheard two of the lifeguards mention God and Jesus, but couldn’t hear the specifics of the conversation. I switched babies with Jen (the youngest is nine months old) and waded over to the lifeguard stand to see what the conversation was about. When I arrived, I believe it was Morgan who said she was not about to have “that” conversation with Travis, so of course I cordially said with a smile, “well, I’d like to have that conversation, what are you talking about?”
Travis jumped in to say he thought Jesus was a conman and seemed to say He deceived people into believing the miracles He performed. I asked Travis how he knew whether that was in fact true, and he told me he didn’t know for sure. We ended up getting into a great conversation and I was able to share the Gospel with him. At this point in Travis’ life, he admits to believing in God, but doesn’t really know who He is or what He has done, and most of all he says we can’t know for sure. Essentially, Travis has broken the 2nd commandment to not form any graven images for he has created a god in his own mind to conform to himself.
Travis admitted to never reading the Bible and everything he thought he knew of Christianity was based on what he saw in professing Christians – hypocrites, corrupt preachers, and judgmental Pharisees. I told Travis he could not base his understanding of Christianity on people but on the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. I also told him to never take a preacher’s word for truth simply because it comes from the mouth of a so-called preacher, but he must search the Scriptures for himself to discover the truth. At the end of our conversation, I pointed Travis to our website here and told him I would bring him a Bible next time we go to the pool. If everything I told Travis was indeed true about the afterlife, and it is I urged him, then he must do everything in his power to come to an understanding of the truth and avoid the lake of fire. I pray the Lord uses this conversation to cause Travis to seek the Truth that he would find it.
Something that really struck me during our conversation was Travis’ comment that I was the first professing Christian he’d spoken with who had not gotten mad – that I was not angry toward Travis or getting heated in an argument. Of course, I have no idea how many of these types of conversations Travis has had with professing Christians, and his perception of how a conversation goes is a subjective interpretation, but it served as a reminder that we must be careful with how we engage the lost with our speech.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us,
…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
With gentleness and respect – every single conversation we have when engaging the lost with the Gospel must be centered on the Hope that is found in Jesus Christ alone. We must do this in a manner that is not condemning of the person, for as Christ said, they are “condemned already” (John 3:18). There is no reason why we should ever be coarse in our speech toward sinners, and we must always take heed to respect the individual to whom we are speaking.
In Colossians 4:6 we are commanded,
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
It is pointless and vain to engage the lost in spiritual conversations for the sake of argument or trying to prove a point. This is not to say that argument (reasoning) doesn’t have it’s place (it most certainly does), but what good is it to seemingly win an argument for mere bragging rights? What good is it to be overzealous toward people to leave sour tastes in their mouths and the impression that we are angry, judgmental, condemning, or self-righteous (although truth spoken, no matter how gracious, is sometimes perceived as such by some people)? No, our speech must be gracious. It must be seasoned with grace and truth, pertinent to the questions that are asked. Be forthright in your speech, but do not lack grace so to disgruntle the listener. We must not give our hearers any reason to find fault in our speech, but rather,
having a good conscience…when [we] are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:16
We are not responsible for the religious hypocrites who, in the name of God, blast sinners with condemnation. Whether they are the Westboro Baptist types, Pelagian heretics who preach on the street, or the run-of-the-mill pew warmer blind by the planks in their own eyes, God will deal with them. However in light of these hypocrites, we must all the more be sure that
no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29
No matter the hearer, whether fellow Christian or non-believer, we must speak the truth in love. After all, this is all part of our sanctification that we
…must rid [ourselves] of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from [our] lips. – Colossians 3:8
It was encouraging and a blessing to be told that my speech toward Travis was implied to be “seasoned with salt”. I pray the Lord uses my testimony before Travis to draw Travis to Himself, and I pray this post might serve to remind and edify my brothers and sisters to be wise and mindful of your speech toward outsiders, holding fast to the following from 2 Timothy 2:24-26:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
May the Lord continue to conform us to our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
This post was originally posted at The Speak:Truth Project