In the journey of evangelism, we often encounter a myriad of responses to the Gospel message. Some are receptive, while others are indifferent. But perhaps the most challenging are those who, having grown up in the shadow of great spiritual leaders, have strayed from the path of righteousness. They wear the badge of their parents’ legacy, yet their lives do not reflect the teachings they once heard. As Jesus wisely advised in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” This reminds us of the discernment needed when sharing the Gospel, especially with those who might not value its precious truths.
The Legacy of Samuel and Eli
The Bible provides us with poignant examples of this. Samuel, a prophet who led Israel with integrity, had sons who “did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were described as men who “did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12), taking advantage of their priestly roles for personal gain.
The Challenge of Boastful Proclaimers and the Prodigal
Today, we encounter individuals who, though they boast of their spiritual lineage and even claim titles like missionaries, live lives marked by drunkenness. As the Bible warns, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). Their hearts seem hardened, and sharing the Gospel with them can be met with resistance or even hostility. It’s heart-wrenching to witness such individuals who, despite their spiritual heritage, choose a path of rebellion.
The Danger of Lineage Over Faith
We must be cautious not to be so blinded by our zeal that we overlook a critical challenge: individuals who prioritize their spiritual lineage over genuine faith in the Gospel. The Pharisees, for instance, took pride in their Abrahamic lineage, yet Jesus rebuked them, saying, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” (John 8:39, ESV). This underscores the danger of resting on one’s lineage rather than cultivating a genuine relationship with God.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, emphasized that true children of Abraham are those who have faith, not just those who are his physical descendants: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6, ESV). Boasting of one’s spiritual heritage without living its truths can lead to a superficial faith, one that values appearance over genuine relationship with God.
It’s crucial to recognize and address this, ensuring that our message emphasizes a personal relationship with Christ over mere religious heritage. After all, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Matthew 7:6: Jesus’ Wise Counsel and Navigating the Path of Evangelism
In our zeal to reach out, we might be tempted to confront them directly, reminding them of their heritage and their current state. But Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, advised, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). This isn’t a call to abandon them but a reminder to approach with wisdom and discernment.
Dealing with Those Ready to Find Fault
In our evangelistic endeavors, we sometimes encounter individuals who seem predisposed to find fault, not just with the message but also with the messenger. These individuals are reminiscent of the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ time, who often questioned Him, not seeking truth but attempting to trap Him in His words. As recorded in Mark 12:13, “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.”
Such fault-finding can be discouraging, especially when our intent is genuine. However, the Bible provides guidance on how to handle such situations. Jesus Himself, when faced with fault-finders, responded with wisdom and often answered in parables or with questions that made them reflect (Mark 12:15-17).
James also warns about the dangers of a critical spirit, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law” (James 4:11). It’s a reminder that constant fault-finding is not in line with God’s command to love one another.
When faced with such individuals, it’s essential to respond with grace, patience, and wisdom, always pointing back to the truth of the Gospel. Peter encourages believers to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Facing Opposition with Grace
The early church, too, faced opposition. When Paul and Barnabas preached in Antioch, they were met with jealousy and contradiction from some Jews. Yet, they responded with boldness, saying, “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:45-46).
Avoiding Fruitless Debates and The Power of Prayer and Gentle Instruction
In our zeal, it’s essential to discern when to engage and when to step back. Paul advises Titus, “Avoid foolish controversies… for they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9). And to Timothy, he writes, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23-24). Yet, while confrontation might seem the immediate solution, the Bible reminds us of the power of prayer and gentle instruction. Paul, writing to Timothy, said, “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).
The Power of Love, Forgiveness, and the Hope of Redemption
While we stand firm in the truth, we must also be marked by love and forgiveness. Jesus taught, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). And Paul reminds the Ephesians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is a beacon of hope. It reminds us that no one is beyond redemption. The father in the story, symbolic of our Heavenly Father, waits with open arms for the return of his lost son. And when the son returns, acknowledging his mistakes, there’s no condemnation, only celebration.
Staying the Course: Paul’s Charge in 2 Timothy 4:1-8
In the midst of these challenges, we find solace and strength in the words of Paul to Timothy: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).
Paul’s words resonate deeply, especially in an age of widespread apathy or even hostility to the Gospel. They remind us of the transient nature of worldly pleasures and the eternal rewards of faithfulness. Paul, reflecting on his own life, declares, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV). His enduring commitment and anticipation of the heavenly reward serve as a beacon for all evangelists, reminding us of the imperishable crown awaiting those who remain steadfast.
In our mission to reach lost souls, we will encounter challenges, especially from those who should know better. Yet, with wisdom, discernment, and love, we can navigate these challenges, always holding onto the hope that the Gospel can transform even the most hardened heart. Let us be guided by the Holy Spirit, ever trusting in the power of God’s Word to bring light to the darkest places, remembering the words of Paul, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:15-16).
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