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When I was a little girl, I remember the day I got saved like no other. My Dad and I used to stay up late playing video games, and on one beautiful summer night, in particular, the trajectory of my life would forever be changed. At two thirty in the morning, I was given an option between life and death.
I wasn’t threatened to make a choice.
I wasn’t forced to believe what my Mom and Dad believed.
I wasn’t even given the “you’re going to Hell” speech.
Nevertheless, something within my heart drew me to Jesus.
It was not just a choice.
It was my choice.
It was not just a decision.
It was my decision.
It was not their pressed acceptance upon me.
It was my acceptance for me.
Today, I think many good and well-intentional Christians want to save others, but they are going about it the wrong way.
When I was in High School, for instance, I not so fondly recall reading Jonathan Edward’s pivotal sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.
In a secular High School English class, you can imagine the horror and disdain I felt reading this as a student. And why? Because all the people in my class who didn’t know God, who didn’t understand Christianity or religion, who didn’t have a view, now had the view that the God I loved and served was merely dangling them over a pit of Hell.
A pit of Hell He would gladly drop them over the second they made a mistake. What a sad view of such a loving and powerful God.
Who God Is
Because while God is a God to be feared, respected, and honored, and Hell is a very real place, scaring people into salvation is not what Christ intended for any of us. And it certainly is not what He called us as His Disciples to do.
Yes, the Gospel message requires an acknowledgment of our sin. It requires us to humble ourselves before God and realize that we all fall short of the glory of His splendor. It requires us to see that He is God and we are not.
Yes, the Gospel message requires us to realize that atonement was needed for our sins. That because we sinned and fell in the Garden of Eden, we were the ones who deserved condemnation and Hell.
But the Gospel message also requires us to realize that because of Jesus, we can be saved. We can confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, ask for forgiveness of our sins, and live the way He intended for us to live. We can become Gospel Message Bearers just as He was as the light of the world.
A Ministry of Love
While Jesus did minister to others using parables and was often harsh with the Pharisees, Religious Leaders, and Sadducees (and they needed that harsh love because they refused to open their eyes to Jesus’ ways and were instead obsessed with religion), His main method of conversion was love.
Jesus made it clear that God came to save everyone.
“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, New Living Translation).
“And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39, New Living Translation).
Jesus made it clear that all needed to repent from sin and accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, New Living Translation).
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, New Living Translation).
How to Treat Others
But when Jesus met the woman at the well who’d had five husbands, He didn’t start with, “you’re going to Hell.” He started with “I know everything about you, but I’m here to offer you a way of life that will never run dry” (John 4).
When God called Noah and Noah ran away, He sent protection in the form of a whale and love in the form of a conviction (Genesis 5).
When Jesus felt the tears and nard of a prostitute flow over His feet, He didn’t tell her to get out, He let her touch Him. He let her get close, and her life was changed (Luke 7:36-50).
As a Born-Again Christian, I will not minimize the seriousness of sin, salvation, Heaven, or Hell. All are real, and all have consequences or outcomes. But when it comes to sharing the Gospel, might I plead with you this:
The student in my class who came from a divorced family needs to know that Jesus sees her and loves her before she’s directly told she’s going to Hell without Him.
The student in my class who was the child of two people addicted to drugs needs to know that Jesus came to offer her a better way of life and love before she’s told to just go to Church and figure it out.
The student in my class who is stuck in a generational wave of mental health disorders needs to hear that God is with them in health and poverty before they’re given a blanket statement to just pray or read their Bible more.
The student in my class who feels like religion and God is being forced down their throat need to know and experience the love, care, and true Gospel Message of Christ through you before you expect them to become a follower of Christ.
Our world needs more living out and less pushing down. It needs Christians willing to live and breathe like Jesus so that others may experience Him through them and be saved.
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[c] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16, New Living Translation).
Be an Effective Agent of Change
The most effective change agents for Christ are not those scaring people into salvation. And as awesome as Hell walks might be at churches during Halloween, I do not believe fear has a place in the love and salvation Christ has to offer them.
The most effective change agents for Christ are those willing to build a trusting relationship with those they desire to be saved.
Investing in those relationships by living as Christ intended them to, and then presenting the Gospel Message.
Not to scare them, but to show them a reality.
Not to force them, but offer them a choice.
A choice that will change their entire life for eternity to come.
Jesus was a friend of sinners, and so shall we be.