Before I start, I’d like to pose a question: How do you evangelize?
Many of us affiliate evangelism with door-knocking and handing out fliers about Jesus on the corner of our city streets. But is this how Jesus evangelized? Did Jesus hand out fliers about himself, or did he meet people where they were at and love them? Lets jump straight into a passage that gives us a clear-cut picture of how Jesus pulled off such a feat:
He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since He was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.”
So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”
“Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
If your definition of evangelism is separate from how you would describe your daily life, then please take heed. While Jesus was on earth, He resisted the temptation to separate ministry from daily life. While Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he encountered Zacchaeus. He was passing through town. He didn’t make a special agenda for outreach, because loving other people was his life. Can I suggest that as followers of Jesus, we prioritize love over personal agenda?
In the dialogue, Jesus tells Zacchaeus “…today I must stay at your house.” Why am I pointing this out? Because religion puts up borders that say ‘don’t go there‘, ‘don’t do this‘, and ‘that’s unclean‘, but I’m writing this to remind you that there was no border that Jesus didn’t cross. He associated with sinners- the: sick, rich, poor, disabled, liars, faceless (unpopular), famous, and diseased.
The truth is that the challenges we face as THE church are not from “the devil.” Satan has been defeated. The challenges we face are from “Christians” with a religious spirit. Even during Jesus’ days, the religious put up walls. While Jesus accepted Zacchaeus, the religious rejected him. “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!” The great tragedy of the church is that we see ourselves as enlightened and people who are in sin as “them.” Let me remind you that there is no “them” and “us”, it’s just “us”- because without the blood of Jesus, we’re “them.”
At the end of this encounter, Jesus makes his purpose plainly known- “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Church- if the living God lives within you, are you seeking the lost like Jesus? Your hands should be dirty; your clothes should be ripped. Not literally, but seeking the lost is going to be messy. You’re going to have to climb through thorn bushes and mud. Jesus went against the grain of religion to reach people.
Even in the earliest days of Christianity, the Apostle Paul was very familiar with going against the grain. He explained to the church in Corinth:
Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Friends- You need to know that God is incredibly more powerful and much bigger than to be contained in anything with a Christian label on it. He can speak to anyone through a secular song. He can love anyone through their brokenness. Paul didn’t choose to become like others in vain. He knew that God was able to reach people no matter where they were at in life. If you are building a wall between yourself and others in the world, then take this as a warning that you need to knock it down. Jesus went against the grain, and so should you.