Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
(Matthew 11:20 ESV)
Today’s passage marks a turn in Jesus’ ministry. Up until now He had been focused on demonstrating God’s love for people through healings, and teachings. Now He adds truth to His ministry.
This in itself is a very important progression that Christians should take note of. God’s judgment is real. It does happen and will continue to happen. There are many people who will face judgment for their sins but who don’t know it or who don’t realize the severity of such a reality. They do need to be told.
But too often Christians tell others about God’s judgment before they’ve demonstrated love towards them. While this might bring someone to repentance who is already aware of how sinful they are (e.g. a lifetime criminal), this strategy won’t work with most people because most people don’t think they are sinners.
For example, the Christian community is pretty vocal about telling the gay community that their lifestyle is sinful, which is true. These people will have to answer for their sins if they don’t cast their sins upon Jesus and let Him take the penalty for them. They do need to be told this.
But telling them, or others, without first loving them comes across as cold and judgmental. This is not how Jesus operated. Jesus did not approach people this way because doing so is a turn off. Such an approach actually keeps people out of heaven – just the opposite goal we should have.
As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”. The proper way to do evangelism with the people in our life is to show love first, then explain truth second. This is how Jesus did it.
Jesus first loved people. He demonstrated caring, compassion, and mercy. Therefore, we must do the same. This involves risk. It requires getting involved in people’s lives and making sacrifices for them, including people that we may not be comfortable around or with whom we would normally not socialize. Loving people is a lot of work. But as we’ve learned in our previous studies, love is not an emotion that makes us feel good. Love is sacrificial action.
It is only after people understand that we care about them that we can take the next step and explain God’s truth to them. This, too, is difficult because it must be practiced with caution so as to not undo the loving groundwork that has already been laid in the relationship.
There is certainly no shortage of people who need to hear about God’s judgment so they can repent and avoid it. But God never tells us to come up with our own plan. Jesus modeled the proper way to spread God’s love and God’s truth to our family, friends, and coworkers. All we have to do is follow it.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.