Start Evangelizing: Part II
For context, and if you didn’t read it, please check out Part I, “Stop Evangelizing”, here. Parts of this piece taken from a talk I gave recently, so if you were there, you’ve been warned.
Perhaps the biggest problem presented to us as Christians is that we are called to “make disciples of all nations”. In fact, we are quite explicitly told this, that the point of being a Christian is not merely our own salvation, but that of the people God has given us.
Throughout scripture, both explicitly and implicitly, we are told that our highest vocation is to love God and Neighbor. Real, effective evangelization seems to be one of the greatest ways we can do both. How better to love our neighbors than to show them the way to divine life? Not as teachers, necessarily, but as a beggar showing another where to get food. And how better to love God than to give him what he would (and did) die to possess: the souls of those he loves. Christ died that the sinner might become the Father’s own, and He invites us to participate in that mission.
Of course, none of this is likely new to you, reader. If you are reading this, the odds are good that you are already quite convicted of the need to share the gospel, and are trying to do so. My goal here, then, is to propose a problem that limits us.
I think we are bad at seeing.
More specifically, I think we do not see as Christ sees.
My friends, our first job, the first thing we have to learn as evangelists, is to see others as Christ sees them.
And that’s a cliche, so I want to explain what that really means.
That doesn’t just mean tolerating and continuing to pursue people even though they’re frustrating, though it does mean that. That isn’t something we have to learn. That’s not a change of the heart, that’s just doing our jobs.
And it’s not merely internalizing the C.S. Lewis line about how we “never interact with a mere mortal”, because that’s just a fact. Facts alone don’t change our hearts.
No, when we’re told about Jesus looking at a young man who won’t give up his attachments in Mark chapter ten we are told that “he looked at him, and he loved him.” The love and the look are simultaneous with the young man’s rejection.
In John Chapter One we’re told that he “looked at Simon” and tells him who he really is. He is Peter, foundation of this Church. Christ knows that Peter will fail him. Heck, he already has, but Christ sees Peter and sees the reason for his coming. The Bridegroom sees the bride.
My friends, to see someone as Christ sees them is to see as Adam saw Eve saying “Finally! Flesh of my Flesh and Bone of my Bone!” We would know that “This is why [we] came into the world”, to love the people we had been given to love.
But we, myself included, are so very very bad at this.
When we see a sinner, (outside of the mirror) the best among us may offer them one or two chances to stop, but we are not willing to hurt for them. We aren’t even willing to go without the dopamine hit we would get for a Social Media post indirectly or directly castigating and mocking them for their sin.
We will never witness to Christ if we fail to witness to his love, and we will never witness to his love if we are caught up in winning, or congratulating ourselves for our right belief. We (myself extremely included) have to repent of our pride and our hatred which we let blind us. If we don’t view each sinner, each person we could get away with mocking or shaming, as someone Christ loves enough that he would die for them, we will never evangelize.
Of course this doesn’t mean excusing sin, but it does mean rejecting the prideful impulse to evaluate someone entirely on the basis of their sins, even if they celebrate them. We who have received love and mercy have no right whatsoever to withhold it, and as long as we do so, we will never evangelize.
So, to start evangelizing, we need to repent, but the good news is that God is endlessly merciful, even to us who know better than to deny Him and our neighbor the love we owe them.
I’m praying for all of you, please be praying for me.