Good Morning –
This week we are in Chapter 4 “Communicating Like Jesus Did” of Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story.
Steps to Sharing the Gospel:
If you Google “steps to share the gospel” or something similar you will find hundreds of web pages giving you step-by-step instructions on how to share the gospel with others and convert your neighbor to Christianity, including this site whose first two steps is to tell your neighbor that they are a sinner and going to hell. On the other hand, Dr. Steele writes that if we wish to tell someone about Jesus, we should look to how Jesus spoke to others. The gospels give us more than 150 one-on-one conversations that Jesus had. When we begin to look at Jesus’ interactions with others, the first thing we discover is that these interactions are not reducible to a set formula or even a set teaching. Jesus does not provide us with a five-step program to share the good news and neither does he give us a set message to share. For example, in all of these 150+ interactions, Jesus only tells one person, Nicodemus, that he must be born again.
Although Jesus does not give step-by-step instructions or a catechism, he does give us his example to follow. Our calling as Christians is simply to imitate him in all that we do, including sharing him and his message to others. This chapter is about those characteristics of Jesus that we should imitate in living his story and in revealing the extraordinary love of God to others. She gives us eight primary characteristics of Jesus that we should emulate.
1. Diversity of People
When we read about Jesus’ interactions, the first thing we should notice is that he interacted with a great diversity of people. Jesus interacted with religious leaders like Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36) or Nicodemus (John 3:1) and with the good religious people in the synagogue (Luke 4:15). But we will also find Jesus with tax collectors and sinners who have never darkened a synagogue’s door (Matt. 9:11), the adulterous (John 8:11), the demon-possessed (Mark 5:2), and even lawyers (Luke 10:25). In Mark 10 we see Jesus interacting with the Rich Man, the blind beggar Bartimaeus, and with children. Jesus is there with the heretical Samaritans (John 4:4) and the pagan Romans (Matt. 8:5). In short, we could use a standard non-discrimination statement to describe the breadth of people that Jesus interacted with. Our calling is to model Jesus and to deliberately and intentionally be with others.
2. Everyone is Different
When we read out Jesus’s interactions with others, we see that his message changes based upon the person with whom he is speaking. Too often, we want to reduce the Christian message to a theological formula. Jesus does not shy away from theology (See, John 3, 6) but his message is not one of getting the theology right, but a message of an invitation into the Kingdom of God. Take a few moments and read some of the interactions of Jesus cited above. His message changes because the concerns and the needs of each person he addresses are different. As Dr. Steele quotes Pete Ward: “In short, the ‘Gospel’ displayed in the ministry of Jesus, is not a static set of ideas but a relationship.” (p.75)
3. Begin with Love:
Dr. Steele points out that Jesus always begins his conversation from a place of love. He has “compassion” for the crowds (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32) and individuals (Luke 7:13) that he encounters and “compassion” is the primary motivator for both the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33) and the Prodigal’s Father (Luke 15:20). Jesus begins with compassion because the Gospel is grounded in God’s love for the world. Jesus is not recruiting an army or even members of a congregation for himself, but he is sharing the love of God that he embodies. When we imitate Jesus, we too must begin with love for the other person, even if (as Dr. Steele points out) we find the other person unlovable. See, Matt. 5:46.
In Tuesday’s email, we will look at characteristics 4-8.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is chicken and dumplings. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28