This past week, I have asked a lot of people how their Thanksgiving went and interestingly, a theme began to emerge in these conversations. Several people mentioned that Thanksgiving is one of the few occasions in the year when they gather with family members who don’t know or love Jesus. One person I was chatting with in particular repeatedly asked the question, “Why does my loved one keep rejecting the gospel?” I could tell they were wondering if they had somehow messed up their chance to share the gospel. It reminded me of an interaction I had with a former employee, who I will call Mark, while I was working in Edmonton.
I could tell right away that Mark was going to be a good hire and that our time working together was going to be enjoyable. He was hard working, took initiative, asked the right questions, and wasn’t an Oilers fan, which meant he wouldn’t choke under pressure. Mark and I worked well together, had a lot of fun, and shared some really great conversations. One of the topics in particular that we spent significant time talking about was religion; christianity in particular. Mark considered himself agnostic, which meant, according to him, that he had not spent enough time thinking about religion to have an opinion about it.
Through our conversations, he began to think more about what he believed and began asking me a whole host of questions. “Why do you think Jesus existed?” “Can you prove He rose from the dead?” “How do you know He was God?” At one point, I even gave him a book recommendation to help answer some of his questions, and to my surprise, he returned it the next day with the entire thing read! After several more of these conversations, I felt like it was time for me to share the gospel with Mark; we had danced around the subject long enough.
One day at lunch, I laid the gospel out for him and, not to brag, I think I nailed it! I explained to him how everything we had talked about happened in order to save sinners like us. I explained how we were saved by grace and that God, through Christ, offers us eternal life with Him. I even articulated the atonement to help him understand why Jesus had to die. I finished our conversation by looking intently at him and asking, “So Mark, what do you think?” I will never forget his response: “Well, that was the most disturbing thing I have ever heard.” This was not what I was expecting. To be honest, I was ready for an angel to come down from heaven and give me a gold star for my efforts.
But seriously, How could it be that something so good and beautiful to my ears, the gospel, was perceived as disturbing to his ears. What did I do wrong? Did I not explain it quite right? Did I leave out something important? I think the apostle Paul helps us understand what might be going on here in one of his letters to the Church in Corinth. After talking about Christ being an aroma that brings life to some and death to others, he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Every one of us has friends, family members, or neighbours who don’t see the gospel as the marvel that it is; perhaps they even joined you around your table this Thanksgiving. What keeps them from seeing the beauty of the gospel is likely that they have not been given the ability to see it for what it is yet, not your inability to explain the gospel message eloquently. Remember this, we all were blinded once until God opened our eyes and hearts to the light of the gospel. So, let’s continue to shine the light that is Christ in word and deed to the best of our abilities with those we love, and yet let’s not fail to remember that what our friends need most is for God to give them sight to see the gospel for what it really is.
May this be our continued motivation and prayer for those we love: “May the God who “let light shine out of darkness,” make his light shine in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).