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Sometimes, I believe the worst thing we could do is tell someone God loves them.
If you’ve grown up in church at all, you’ve probably participated in some form of outreach. Handed out water bottles on a hot summer afternoon, passed out blankets to the homeless on a cold winter night, or played with children on the playground of a low-income apartment complex. You smiled and told them that God loved them. Maybe even prayed for them.
And then you left.
And they were still lost.
What did you—what did we—accomplish besides meeting a physical or felt need?
Imagine for a moment a different scenario.
Handing out water, passing out blankets, playing with kids—and looking each of those souls in the eye and telling them that they’re sinners. That their best efforts are filthy rags in God’s eyes. That unless they repent of their sins, and place their full trust in Christ, who died for them, they’ll never make it to heaven.
Can you even imagine? It feels abrasive. Crazy, even.
But that’s the Gospel. And the Gospel isn’t feel-good. It’s actually highly offensive—because it attacks people’s pride.
In today’s church society, we’re quick to mention Jesus’ name but slow to tell the full gospel story, because we’re terrified to offend. We tend to highlight grace and ignore sin—because how much easier is grace on the ears? We verbally showcase God’s love and compassion, and all but ignore His wrath and justice.
We can’t pick and choose which parts of God we present to the lost. When we do, we’re essentially “loving them” into hell.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been taught your entire life to form relationships before sharing the gospel. To not be that freaky fanatic who walks up to complete strangers and asks them if they know Jesus. To get to know someone and build trust first so you don’t look insane. Then broach the topic when it’s more natural.
The problem with that is rarely do we ever broach the topic. We create missionary friendships and drink coffee and maybe even attend church together—with no in-depth discussion on the Gospel and salvation.
When we create these kinds of friendships and participate in these kinds of outreaches, we’re simply sharing a feel-good, generic message that does more harm than good. Yes, God is love, and He loves His creation so much He sent Jesus to die for them. For me. For you. But as much as He loves, the Bible is clear that He also despises sin. Without the covering of His Son’s blood, man is wretched and condemned in God’s eyes. Hell-bound.
We fail miserably when we cling to the man-made phrase “love the sinner and hate the sin.” We fail in that we mistake acceptance for love. We fail in that we grow more prone to doling out that misplaced acceptance, because we don’t know where exactly the line blurs gray from black to white. We fail in that we use love as an excuse to dodge the hard stuff. Where is love found, anyway—in tolerance, or in truth?
Here’s another hard fact.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Psalm 11:5, ESV).
We falsely tend to assume that “wicked” refers only to those who are murderers, rapists, or any other number of what we view as more “extreme” sins. But the definition of wicked is simply “evil or morally wrong”. At the end of the day, all sin is morally wrong. That means without the covering of Christ’s blood making us righteous before God, we’re all wicked.
So how can we hand out water bottles, and not hand out this life-saving message? How can we pass out blankets and soup, yet withhold hope?
I think part of our hesitation comes into play when we overemphasize our role. We as believers are called to proclaim the Gospel. We are not the Holy Spirit, and His job is not our job. It’s His role to convict. We speak, He does the saving work. When we burden ourselves with the outcome or the results of an outreach, we’re taking on more than we were meant to bear.
Another excuse we wear like a nametag is “not being called to ministry.” We want to leave the awkward telling of our faith to those who are comfortable on stage with a blazer and a microphone, and not own the calling Christ gave to all His followers. We want to shy away and “let our life speak as a testimony” rather than our lips.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ (Romans 10:13-15, ESV).
That goes for every follower of Christ—not just the ones with a seminary degree. I don’t want to be guilty of walking past those on the street who have never believed. I don’t want to pass by that mascara-streaked woman in the elevator, that cheerful Starbucks barista, that homeless man with the backpack, or my co-worker in the break room and assume that they’ve heard. I want to be the one who helps point them toward the saving grace of Jesus.
Most of the time, that’s not going to look pretty, feel comfortable or be easy—obedience rarely is. It’s going to involve getting your hands dirty and your heart invested and your pride smashed. It’s going to mean telling someone the truth whether it offends them or not. It’s going to mean caring more about someone’s eternity than your reputation.
It’s going to mean telling them that God loves them—and having the boldness not to stop there.
Related Video: Are You Living Out of the True Gospel or the Goodness Gospel?
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww