POSTED ON MARCH 14, 2012:
Don't Judge Me!
Are we talking about thumbs up, thumbs down-- or just a skeptical evaluation among friends?
Ten years ago you could ask anyone, Christian or non-Christian, to tell you the most quoted scripture of all time and many could tell you, if not quote, John 3:16. A few years ago it became clearly evident that a shift was taking place in our culture.
During the 2009 BCS National Championship Tim Tebow played the entire game with the phrase "John 3:16" written on his eye-black. In the next few hours it was estimated that over 92 million people conducted a web search of the term. This past season during an NFL playoff game where the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in OT it became publicized that Tebow had thrown for 316 yards with a 31.6 per yards completion rate. The Tim Tebow, John 3:16 craze was immediately renewed as the NFL star became the center of praise for his quarterback play and criticism for his outspoken faith.
Not only has John 3:16 become less well known among the general public, it is also in danger of being replaced as the most used or quoted scripture. Several search engines and online bible resources have noted that John 3:16 is in danger of being overtaken by Matthew 7:1. Are you familiar with that one?
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
It's not used as frequently with Christians as it is with non-Christians who are attempting to use a Christian's own source of truth as a way to say, "Stop pointing your finger at me."
These latest trends have revealed a few ideological shifts in the way people think. First of all, there are less and less people who understand the basic tenets of the Christian faith. You can no longer assume that a person has some sort of foundational understanding of the Christian faith. Secondly, most non-Christians will automatically approach a conversation about faith with a Christian feeling somewhat judged (or pre-judged).
What does this mean for us who take the Great Commission seriously (Matthew 28:19-20) and believe that sharing our faith is critical component to living out the message of the gospel? It means that if we approach a non-Christian with guns blazing, wearing our convictions like badges of honor, we only reinforce what they're already assuming. "You think you're better than me. You think I'm wrong and you're right."
So, what's our response? It's our job as Christians to contextualize the gospel message and present it in a way that is most effective. In a way that makes it more receptive. In a way that's less about finger pointing and more about how we're all jacked up people in need of a Savior. In a way that is more focused on what we're about (experiencing true life in Christ) than what we're against (fill in the blank: ________________). This isn't about watering down the gospel message or just tolerating sin as much as it is about building a bridge with another person that gives you access to share your faith. Without that bridge you have no voice!
So, how do we do that? Can I recommend a simple yet profound way of doing this?
Share your story. More specifically, share the story about how Christ has transformed your life. Why is this so effective, especially in a world that's already feeling judged and condemned by many Christians?
Your story isn't invasive, intrusive, or confrontational. It's your story, not anybody else's. It's not about thrusting your ideas or philosophies on another person, it's simply sharing from your own personal journey.
Your story is proof. Honestly, it may be the only proof you have to show someone that this Jesus thing is legitimate. In a world that is increasingly skeptical people want to know that you are genuine, that you are somehow different as a result of your faith. People need to see that as a follower of Christ your life, your future, your marriage, and your outlook on life has been changed. Your story of life change is proof that the transformation is real.
Your story is the gospel message. It's a story of redemption. It's a story of an individual who was messed up, without hope and purpose, and completely lost. When you share your story with others you are sharing the gospel message of Jesus Christ and how he came to bring hope, life, and purpose to something that was completely lost and confused without Him.
Lately, as I've been reading through the book of Acts it's been interesting to see how the Apostle Paul responded in the face of severe persecution. In Acts 21 Paul is facing fierce opposition from the Jews in Jerusalem and is arrested by the Roman commander and put on trial for stirring up dissension among the people.
Here Paul stands before the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem and the political leaders of the Roman Empire and what does Paul do, he shares his story. But, why?
In those few minutes that Paul had to speak there was no way he was going to debate the Jews out of their beliefs or reveal their sins to them in a way that would lead them to Christ. Any attempt at such would only have made the situation worse. The most powerful tool that Paul had at his disposal was his story.
In Acts 21:1-21, Paul boldly and unashamedly tells the people of a story of a man who used to scour the earth killing Christians. This same man had an experience with Jesus on a road just outside Damascus that forever changed his life. He was never the same from that moment. He was given hope, life, and purpose. It's Paul's story and it's the gospel message.
In a world that is skeptical about Christianity, Jesus, and the church, it's imperative that as Christians we don't simply fan the flame of skepticism but we provide a proper alternative. We should be entering into their world, highlighting our own brokenness, and magnifying the role of Jesus Christ to completely transform an otherwise futile life. In other words, share your story.
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