Okay, he didn’t use those words… but that’s what he was talking about. He said that we need to make a distinction between the way we communicate the gospel to those who hear for the first time, compared with those who have embraced and then rejected the good news. He used a somewhat fitting metaphor: “A person must court a virgin differently than a divorcee. One welcomes the charming words; the other needs a demonstration of love to overcome inbuilt skepticism.â€?
I think it’s fair to say that in the west, we’ve moved past the age of Christendom (I think I’m preaching to the choir, so I’m not going to belabour supporting that statement). And in this milieu, the people whom we encounter have largely already filed for divorce from Christianity, or from religion in general. To reach these people, our words won’t cut it — no matter how strongly we cry the necessity of proclaiming the gospel, deaf ears will ever be deaf ears. The response is missional: a demonstration of love is required, a commitment to listen more than we talk, and just to be present on terms other than our own.
In other words, if we want people to believe God loves them, we first need to show that we love them.
Call me bitter, if you must, but we might even want to begin with loving each other if we want anyone to believe that a “demonstration of love” is anything more than a gimmick. Does anyone like being considered a project? (I know you’re not advocating that – but it’s easy to feel like a project when you’re relationship is one-way and you’re on the receiving end.)
Hmmm… I guess those are two thoughts. 1. I feel abandoned by “the church” that was supposed to be my family – partly due to a large amount of their energy going into outreach programs, leaving little for those already in “the fold”. Therefore, I would be lacking integrity if I were to invite others into a place where I feel such lack of practical love. 2. Give up the programs and start treating people like people! Ask for something and you give a person value and respect as a contributing member of your world. Humble yourself to receive from those who may have little and you’ll find them much more responsive to what you have to give. Sometimes love means receiving – not just giving.
Yikes… I mean your relationship… (Can’t believe I misspelled that – pet peeve and all)
Hehehe … I have a good friend who is a pagan (no, really, I do … I’m not just saying it). I was telling him about leaving our church recently (and he knows some of the people there). It was a bad leaving I made a sarcastic comment about Christians eating their own. To which he responded by saying something in defense of Christians (there not being a higher proportion of cannibals amongst us than in other parts of the population or something to that effect). He went on to say, “I strongly feel that religion gives God a bad name. …. Nothing can affect your own connection with the divine except you.”
So … he doesn’t call “the divine” Christ, but I take it that way. I wonder sometimes if we don’t automatically discount some of the wisdom we can hear from the divorcee. You know, she’s been around the block too and we might be able to learn from her, just as much as she from us.
Great quote from CS Lewis … do you have the reference for it please?
I agree we need to demonstrate out love, but certainly in the UK, i think we have a lot of work to do to convince people that we aren’t loving (or serving … or caring … or helping …) without an ulterior motive. If we Christians get involved in our communities, serving and helping, people just think we are doing it so that we can “convert people”. I guess they probably have good reason for that assumption, and i think it will take some time to demonstrate that isn’t the case (assuming of course it isn’t!).
Yup. Love as a gimmick isn’t love. If you have to put it on for an event or channel it through a program, it isn’t love. Like many of us, you sound just like a church divorcee… we’re no longer happy with the platitudes, we want the demonstration that it’s not just another gimmick.
Yup. As noted to Cindy-lu, the divorcee needs paying attention to. Were I still part of the institutional church, I might tell them that they should pay attention to the divorcees they know in order to avoid creating many more of them.
Sorry I don’t have a solid reference, I would have liked to furnish a link. I saw it in print somewhere, Google’d part of the text, and found that the quote has been given several times with attribution to Lewis. Philip Yancey used it in Christianity Today I believe. If you poke around the Google results more than I did, you’ll probably chase it down.
Thanks for these words. I agree. There is so much impoverishment around in Christian circles – a true and authentic lack of love. Lamentable. Some would even refer to love in our midst and for all people as the final apologetic. In working with atheists and agnostics for over twenty years, I have learned that missional has to be translated with the love of God, who first loved us so that in turn we might love others. This is the piercing that should mark us out and be evident in all Christians lives.