Friends With Benefits: Re-imagining Evangelism, Part 4

Thanks for sticking with me through this series. If you’ve not taken the time to read the series all the way through, I strongly urge you to do so. This final post will make more sense if you do. You can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I hope it’s meant something to you! Peace to you as you start your weekend.


How this story Ends

So here we are, Zacchaeus (enemy #1) climbed a tree, and Jesus placed worth on him as a person. What happened after that?

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.  Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Two things happen here:

First: People get angry. Think about it. All the elite are all around him. The crowd is filled with people that have “earned” their salvation and instead of talking to them Jesus looks up at a short, corrupt politician, and they witness as this thieving tax collector becomes the man of honor for the evening. He is publicly validated, and before their eyes, the religious walls they helped to create began to crumble around them. We shouldn’t be surprised that this lead to people being uncomfortable and upset.

This is only a minor speed-bump in the narrative of this passage. Vastly more important is what happens next:

Second: Redemption comes to the house of Zacchaeus. When we read this story, we often times read that Zacchaeus gets saved, and as a response, gives back all the money he stole. That’s understandable. This is a major event, and worth reading and retelling. We see what happens when someone comes into contact with the gospel. They are so radically changed that they are compelled to right the people they’ve wronged and to strive to become more like Christ. They are changed and compelled out what Christ first did for them.

What is beautiful is what happens immediately after his massive money restitution. Jesus says that, “today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” That sounds a bit old-englishy, right? Well, one theologian described this simple sentence this way:

“Jesus is referring to a conversion, to be sure, but not in any private sense. Not only is his household involved, but also the poor who will be beneficiaries of his conversion as well as those people whom he may have defrauded. His salvation, therefore has personal, domestic, social, and economic dimensions…Let’s not forget, also, that in other stories “saved” is translated “made well,” “healed,” and “made whole.” The whole of life is affected by Jesus’s ministry (the good news).”

This is where it all comes home:

Evangelism doesn’t come down to the number of theological books you’ve read, or how well you can debate the existence of God. Evangelism is about being present in our daily lives.  It isn’t about who has the biggest platform, or the most persuasive argument. Evangelism is about allowing God to first change our hearts, break our hearts and give us wisdom to speak into the lives of those we’re already doing life with.

We can put all this pressure on ourselves, but ultimately evangelism is only, and can only be, an invitation. We cannot, and should not, put pressure for someone to make a decision. That is not our responsibility. As Christians, we believe that before we ever make a decision to commit our life to Christ, he was already there wooing us. He was proving his love and whispering in our ear, “I love you. You matter. You are my son (or daughter).”

As believers, all we are doing is partnering in the work that’s already begun.

Maybe it will happen at work, or at our kids soccer game. It’s possible that it could happen at a grocery store, or at a family get-together. The possibilities and scenarios are endless. The point is that they will most likely be in the midst of what seems like insignificant life.

Most often times, to share the good news, all that is needed is an invitation to belong. It’s to say, “you matter” and to mean it. No agenda. No pressure to pray a sinners prayer. It’s one human saying to the other, “I think you have incalculable worth, and I think you’re important.” It’s asking if a person would like to spend some time in relationship together, and to share in life together.

The brilliant writer, Dallas Willard explained evangelism this way:

You ravish people with the blessings of the Kingdom. You make them hungry for it. That’s why words are so important—we must be wordsmiths. You use words to ravish people with the beauty of the kingdom. It’s the beauty of the kingdom that Jesus said was causing people to climb over each other just to get in. People become excited like the pearl-purchaser—they will give everything to get in.

Take a moment and think about how you use the everyday life you’re blessed with- because, we need to know that what we’ve been given, each day, is a gift. With these days, are we inviting people to belong? Are we ascribing worth to people that we come into contact with? Are we inviting them into relationship with ourselves?

So, the question remains: Are we ravishing people with the blessings of the Kingdom?


4 thoughts on “Friends With Benefits: Re-imagining Evangelism, Part 4

  1. Best statement of the 4 days – “We cannot, and should not, put pressure for someone to make a decision. That is not our responsibility.”

    Whenever I see someone putting pressure on a person about their salvation, it makes me wonder why the person exerting the pressure does not trust God.

  2. Pingback: Friends with Benefits: Re-imagining Evangelism- A Recap | Michael Palmer

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