Even if people reject the gospel, we still must love them. A good example of this was reported by Ralph Neighbour, pastor of Houston’s West Memorial Baptist Church (in Death And The Caring Community, by Larry Richards and Paul Johnson): Jack had been president of a large corporation, and when he got cancer, they ruthlessly dumped him. He went through his insurance, used his life savings, and had practically nothing left.
I visited him with one of my deacons, who said, “Jack, you speak so openly about the brief life you have left. I wonder if you’ve prepared for your life after death?”
Jack stood up, livid with rage. “You *** Christians. All you ever think about is what’s going to happen to me after I die. If your God is so great, why doesn’t He do something about the real problems of life?” He went on to tell us he was leaving his wife penniless and his daughter without money for college. Then he ordered us out.
Later my deacon insisted we go back. We did.
“Jack, I know I offended you,” he said. “I humbly apologize. But I want you to know I’ve been working since then. Your first problem is where your family will live after you die. A realtor in our church has agreed to sell your house and give your wife his commission.
“I guarantee you that, if you’ll permit us, some other men and I will make the house payments until it’s sold.
“Then, I’ve contacted the owner of an apartment house down the street. He’s offered your wife a three-bedroom apartment plus free utilities and an $850-a-month salary in return for her collecting rents and supervising plumbing and electrical repairs. The income from your house should pay for your daughter’s college. I just want you to know your family will be cared for.”
Jack cried like a baby.
He died shortly thereafter, so wracked in pain he never accepted Christ. But he experienced God’s love even while rejecting Him. And his widow, touched by the caring Christians, responded to the gospel message.
The Obnoxious College Professor
A college professor met his new class on the first day of school. He stood before the students and gave a nice introduction to the class and about himself.
Upon completion of his monologue, he looked around the room and asked his students, “If any of you think you are stupid, stand up.” As he looked around he saw that none of his students stood up.
He proceeded to ask the same question again, “If anyone thinks he or she is stupid to please stand up.”
The college professor looked around and to his surprise one student in the back of the room stood up. The professor asked, “So, you think you are stupid?”
The first-year student replied, “No, I just didn’t want you to feel alone.”
Reaching the Unchurched
Here is my grid for how I think of what to say when given the platform by a friend out of trust – a friend who is not following Jesus:
- I want to honor the friendship by doing exactly what he’s asked me to do. Not more or less. I take as much license as I feel free to take, within the boundaries of the invitation.
- I want to leave the time with my friendship strengthened, not weakened.
- I want to honor God by not saying anything too edgy or controversial just for the sake of being edgy and controversial.
- I want to say something about Jesus. Not preach the full gospel. But just say something that will cause the people there to pause and think “Hmmm? I haven’t heard it said that way before. Maybe there’s something about Jesus I’ve missed or haven’t thought of.”
- I want to admit my Christian religious heritage, but not feel bad about poking fun of it a bit – in a way that this audience would understand. To use that in building a bridge. Not trash it, but just poke fun as an insider would of his own people or his own family.
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on Empathy. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!