Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 3:7-10 ESV)
Today’s comment by Paul struck me as very interesting.
Paul told the Gentiles about the unsearchable riches of Christ – the wonderful benefits that are available as a result of having a relationship with God through Jesus. He didn’t tell them that they were horrible sinners who would burn in hell if they did not repent of their evil ways.
In fact, if we look at Paul’s writings we see that when it came to non-believers he taught the blessings of God. When it came to believers he preached the perils of sin. Obviously, since we read this in the Bible, this is how God wants His children to operate today. But I think we almost always get it backwards.
The stereotype of an evangelical Christian is a finger-waving, hell-threatening, judgmental individual who points out other people’s sins. And while I don’t think this is always true, I think it is true more often than we’d like to admit. As a result, many non-believers look at God the same way. But this is not the image of God portrayed in the Bible.
We live in a world where people are hurting. They are wondering where God is. The last thing they need is to be told what wretched souls they are. A witnessing tactic that takes that approach is bound to fail.
On the second day of my first job out of college a co-worker, who I had only briefly met the day before, said to me “Do you know you’re going to hell?”. As an atheist, this witnessing tactic only made me dig in my heels even more. It would take seven more years before I’d be willing to open my mind.
God does not expect those who are not a part of His family to live godly lives. But He does expect His children to do so. He wants us to live differently than the world – apart from sin – because it is primarily by our lifestyle and our joy that the world will see what they are missing.
This is exactly the same strategy God has always used. God set ancient Israel apart for the very same reason. He didn’t want them blending in otherwise the other nations would not see God through them.
Sadly though, too many Christians today sin without holding each other accountable. But we do hold the unbelieving world accountable for their sins. This is completely the opposite of how it should be.
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