How I long for the days described by the Prophet Micah:
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2)
Instead, we find the very opposite thing here in the West – the nations fleeing from any mention of the Lord. This disappointment has led to an assortment of reactions – “mea culpa,” revisioning the church, evangelistic silence, and other ways of trying to be less offensive to the non-believer. Some have adopted a saying falsely ascribed to St. Francis:
Preach the Gospel wherever, but use words only when necessary.
This often takes the form of the widely popular “friendship evangelism.” However, this inoffensive attempt at evangelism carries its own potential costs, and so before we adopt this practice, we must be aware of them:
EVANGELISM DOES REQUIRE WORDS: In His “great commission,” Jesus required words:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
WE MUST NOT MISREPRESENT OUR INTENTIONS: When we misrepresent ourselves, we delude and lose our moral high-ground, ultimately bringing the Gospel into disrepute. Instead, transparency and honesty are essential:
So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)
We must not hide the fact that we are “servants of Christ.” To hide this is to deceive. One dear friend went to a Muslim country as an undercover missionary. She followed the instructions of her missions board and found lodgings with a Muslim family. However, she began to feel that they were more righteous than she. She was deceiving them about her intentions and felt ashamed of herself and eventually dropped out.
WE SHOULD NOT HIDE OUR LIGHT: We are to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). When we hide the light, we fail to bear witness to our Savior. Even when we perform acts of love, we need to let others know why we are doing so. When we fail to give this acknowledgement of our Savior, our silence will communicate a different message – that secular motivations/intentions are enough! Besides, the pattern of interaction that we establish at the first will be difficult to break once we decide that we must speak.
WE CAN’T JUST “HANG OUT,” DOING THE THINGS THAT THE WORLD DOES: If we fail to establish from the start who we are and what our intentions are, we become vulnerable to compromise, trying to affirm what our friend affirms so that we can “truly” be a friend. Instead, we must be clear about our boundaries:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)
Besides, this form of spiritual passivity will make us more vulnerable to other influences. Instead, it is important to proactively be moving forward.
WE MUST NOT BIND OURSELVES TOGETHER WITH NON-BELIEVERS: If we make vows of friendship, we have committed ourselves in a way that compromises our commitment to our Savior:
Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:7-8)
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
When we associate with non-Christians without speaking the Gospel, we preach another message – “The way you are is perfectly fine!”
WE TOO WILL BE INFLUENCED BY OUR FRIENDS: Paul had warned, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). To think that we are above such influence is naïve.
“DATING EVANGELISM” WILL NOT ONLY PLACE US IN JEOPARDY BUT ALSO OTHER CHRISTIANS WHO MIGHT SEE US: We also have to be concerned about the impact of our behavior on other Christians, as Paul insisted:
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:13)
Paul was not only concerned about eating but also about anything that might lead the brethren into what they regard as sin or into something that they cannot handle in a godly manner. We cannot use our freedom in a way that will cause others to violate their conscience.
FRIENDSHIP EVANGELISM TENDS TO FORGET THAT THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL IS GOD’S CONVERSION TOOL:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed. (Romans 1:16-17)
We have grown ashamed of preaching the Gospel. We are embarrassed by others who preach it. However, “it is the power of God for… salvation.” Therefore, ask the Spirit for His guidance and empowerment.
We should not expect to be a blessing unless we are in line with the Lord and His program. We are His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:19) and not independent friendship gigolos. Faithfulness requires us to sow Hisseeds and not our own.