How do we respond to people when their actions inconvenience us or are just plain wrong? When someone cuts us off in traffic, is our first thought, “I wonder why she’s in such a hurry? I’m happy to let her in front of me.” When we see the co-worker who is always in a bad mood, do we wonder, “What is going on in his life that makes him this way? I want to keep having lunch with him until I find out.” When we see all the people around us who never grace the inside of a church building with their presence, do we think, “I wonder how I could get to know them better so that I could show them Christ’s love?” Or, do we judge them for their “sinful ways” and thank God that we’re not like them?
As we go through the Lenten season, we’re going with Jesus as he journeys towards the cross in Jerusalem. Last week, we looked at his conversation with the Jews where he told them not to automatically expect that they had salvation simply because they were God’s chosen people.
Our passage in Luke 13:31-35 picks up right where we left off last week. “31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
“Today and tomorrow, and on the third day” doesn’t mean three literal days. This is Jesus’ way of saying he is going to keep the schedule that God the Father has laid out for him. Herod Antipas wasn’t going to stop him from going to die on the cross.
At the end of vs. 33, Jesus starts to lament because he knows that most of his own people will reject him. “34 ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Try to imagine the pain in Jesus heart as he calls to them. “Oh Jerusalem, prophets were sent to you. They called on you to repent from your sins. They foretold my coming. But you killed them because you didn’t want to hear what they had to say. Now you’re going to kill me too. Soon your temple will be destroyed and you will be scattered. Oh, I wish that you wouldn’t reject me. I am offering you so much because I am giving so much.”
When we look at the people around us, do we long for their salvation as much as Jesus does? Jesus thinks we should. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “8 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus makes us responsible for evangelism. Of course, the Holy Spirit and God’s word brings forth conviction in us as well as others but for some reason God requires us to carry-out this privilege.
We need to realize there’s more to evangelism than simply telling others about Jesus. It also involves showing love to others. How do we do this? We do it the same way that Jesus did it. In John 8, the religious leaders brought a woman who was caught in adultery before Jesus. They wanted Jesus to say something they could use against him.
John 8:6b-11 tell us Jesus response. “But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Do you notice the type of attitude Jesus showed this woman? He confronted her sin but he showed her compassion and forgiveness instead of judgment. He understood that she didn’t know any better.
Do we show this same love to people around us?
As we struggle to be faithful in this, there are some practical things we can do. In his article “What’s Better than Judging Non-Christians?” Pastor Carey Nieuwhof offers the following suggestions:
1) Stop Judging non-Christians. Jesus didn’t expect them to act like him. He knew they didn’t have the ability. Besides, we don’t like it when people judge us. They’re no different than we are.
We need to remember that non-Christians aren’t as hypocritical as many Christians are. They don’t claim to do one thing and then do something else. They typically admit that they are acting out what they say they believe. We don’t always do this.
2) Empathize with non-Christians. If you weren’t already a Christian, would you become one based the way some Christians act? If you weren’t one, what would you be doing? Perhaps the same things non-Christians are doing.
3) Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. Unfortunately, we have the tendency to cluster inside of our Christian bubble. How can we show love to non-believers if we never associate with them?
4) Pray for the unchurched. How can we remain distanced from them if we are praying for them?
5) Live out my faith authentically. Actions speak louder than words. I’ve found many non-Christians are very forgiving and accepting of Christians who will say, “I messed up on that one” or “Please forgive me. I think that came out wrong.” What they are not forgiving of, however, is hypocrisy.
Part of the responsibility of taking up our cross and following Jesus to his cross is loving others. The sad truth is many Christ followers spend more time judging non-Christians or being indifferent to their struggles than they do loving them.
Jesus didn’t do this. He doesn’t want us doing this either.