Tonight we are discussing Chapter 4 “Communicating Like Jesus Did” of Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story. In this chapter, Dr. Steele lays out the eight primary characteristics of the way Jesus shared his message and himself. Steps 1-3 are in the last email.
4. Vulnerability and Humility:
When we think of the typical evangelist, we generally have a picture of a self-confident (bordering on arrogant) individual who has all the answers. With the exception of his interactions with the religious leaders, that is not what we find in Jesus. Often Jesus begins his conversations with a posture of vulnerability and humility. For example, he approaches the Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink. John 4:7. Also, throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus being a guest of someone. We see him submitting to the hospitality of others from Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36) to Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:5). And, of course, we have the example of Jesus’ ultimate vulnerability in the story of the Passion. Jesus cedes control of the situation to the other person so that he may draw them to himself.
5. Allow Interruptions:
Jesus allows himself to be interrupted. Again, Jesus cedes control to others so that he may reach them. We see friends cut a hole in the roof and lower their paralytic friend to Jesus while he is speaking to a crowd (Mark 2), the hemorrhagic woman reaches out to touch Jesus as he is on his way to heal Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:28), and the blind beggar Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus despite the crowds telling him to shut-up (Mark 10:49). Those in need constantly interrupted the flow of Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus took the time to minister to them. Whatever agenda Jesus had at the moment of the interruption, he never allowed this agenda to come before the needs of others. How can we share our story with others, if we do not allow them to interrupt us with their concerns?
Dr. Steele began this discussion by observing that 1) Jesus communicated with different people and 2) he communicated with different people differently because every person comes from a different place in life with different needs and concerns. The only way that we can communicate like Jesus is to listen to the other person. When Bartimaeus yells “Son of David, have mercy on me!”, Jesus simply responds, “what do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:49). We cannot know what someone needs or wants or is thinking unless we listen to them first. Additionally, the very act of listening to someone opens the door to a relationship. Everyone wants to be heard and be assured that they have been listened to. It is why James tells us that we should be quick to hear, but slow to speak. James 1:19.
7. Ask Questions:
In the gospels, Jesus is asked more than 180 questions, yet he only answers about ten directly and responds with more than 300 questions of his own. Good questions allow us to continue to listen to the story of others, to build the relationship, and to be in a position to share our stories with others in a personalized manner. Dr. Steele uses the example of someone questioning how God could allow suffering. The problem of evil and suffering has occupied the thoughts of philosophers and theologians for almost as long as we have written records. As Dr. Steels points out, most people who ask the question are not interested in a theoretical discussion of Christian theodicy, rather the person has a concrete personal reason for the question. A discussion of suffering in the first person is different than a discussion of suffering in the abstract, and only a good question can make that discernment.
8. Conversations of Restoration and Grace:
Dr. Steele’s final characteristic of Jesus’s conversations is that the vast majority of his conversations fall on the side of grace and acceptance and not condemnation. If we think about the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), our conversations should be modeled on the Father and not the elder brother. For example, to the hemorrhagic woman, Jesus calls her “daughter” (Mark 5:34), to the woman caught in adultery, Jesus offers forgiveness (John 8:11), to the man born blind, Jesus offers assurance that his condition is not his fault (John 9:3), and to Peter who betrayed him on Good Friday, he gives restoration (John 21:15). The only times we find the absence of grace and restoration in Jesus’s conversations is when he is speaking to the religious leaders who deny grace and restoration to others (Luke 11:37-52) or to others who seek to obtain or retain power and authority (Mark 10:35-45).
Dr. Steele ends this chapter with the following discussion questions:
1. Taking your personality type into account, think of three natural ways you might share your faith. (These may not involve speaking explicitly of spiritual matters.)
2. Have you ever experienced an interruption that turned out to be a God moment? How might you become more prepared for interruptions in your everyday life?
3. What strikes you most about the way Jesus interacted with people? How might you learn from his approach?
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is chicken and dumplings. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
If one gives an answer before he hears,Proverbs 18:13
it is his folly and shame.