I'm in my 50's now but for many years, until my mid-teens, I thought God was more out to get me than love me. 1970's style, fire-and-brimstone, pentecostal preaching is not the most loving style of preaching around: Accept Jesus or Go to Hell. Yes, there is some truth to that, but we can win more people over with love than preaching Hell. 1 Corinthians 13 about love is one of my favorite full chapters of the Bible and there is much that we can all take away from that chapter.
Like many 17 to 21 year olds, I didn't pay much attention to the things of God. I was more wrapped up in self and sin during that period of my life. It was not until my early to mid twenties that I began to realize that God is a loving God as I began to attend the Baptist church more and the Church of Christ that my wife was brought up in. I remember clearly being baptized by a Church of Christ minister at age 24 which was a key turning point in my adult life.
I said all that before transitioning into sharing, inviting, loving and praying to give you some brief history about me to help put some things into perspective.
The Great Commission: Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; ..."
As Christians, we are called by Jesus to share the good news of the Gospel. But being a Bible thumper, scripture quoting, shove the Gospel down someone's throat Christian is not what we are called to do. Jesus didn't command us to share the Gospel this way.
Jesus commanded us in Luke 6:31 "And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them." In other words, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Force feeding the Gospel is not the way to bring others to a loving relationship with Jesus.
There are numerous ways to share the Gospel with others, but I'll keep it short:
1) Actions do speak louder than words, so living by example is one of the most basic ways. However, so many people just want this to be their one and only way of sharing the Gospel by simply living a good Christian life that can be seen by others. Although it's important to "let our light so shine" and to be "salt and light," there is more that we can all do beyond leading by example.
2) We don't have to stand on the street corner with a mega phone; however, we can all share by casually mentioning to others what Christ has done for us through answered prayer, through a service we attended, by sharing stories from others, etc.
3) With the Internet, there are numerous ways to share like having your own website or blog or writing articles. If you get caught up in forums, Facebook and commenting online, it may get into a heated debate quickly. That's why looking for other ways to share online like a website, a blog or somewhere to publish an article may be a better way to share.
4) Tracts are a great way to share. Tracts can be handed to someone, left behind where other literature may be, put in an envelope along with a bill payment and utilized in many ways. Tracts are usually affordable as well.
5) Start your own bible study group. If you are not part of a small group, you can start one. It may initially be just you and one other person. The nice thing about having a group is that you can also invite someone to visit your group.
When is the last time you invited someone to Church? That's one of the easiest ways to get things started. If someone attends a service with you, it opens up an opportunity for conversation afterwards. If they don't want to attend with you, it may open up a conversation as well. There are a lots of people who don't attend church regularly. I've been on both sides. What's interesting is when I wasn't attending regularly, I very rarely EVER got invited to Church or any other Church related function.
You can invite someone to coffee or lunch with another friend from Church, but I'd suggest being upfront and saying, "I'm having coffee with a friend of mine from Church, would you like to join us?"
You don't have to over invite, but until you are told by the person "stop inviting me," I would consider the door still being open.
Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." It's very clear here that Jesus commanded us to LOVE.
I Corinthian 13: 4-7 "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Loving others is not always easy. However, it's something that we should all strive for.
Is putting someone down about their beliefs being loving? Is trying to prove someone wrong loving? Is making someone feel bad by antagonizing them loving? I think we all need to be careful and conscience about loving especially when Jesus says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Drawing closer to Jesus in our own lives can help us become more loving to others. I think that loving Jesus more and focusing on his command "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" can make a difference in our lives.
Father Larry Richards has a saying "I am third." God First. Others Second. Me Third. If we all truly lived that everyday, imagine how different the world we live in would be.
If we love others, we will want to share the Gospel and we will want to invite them to Church. If we love others as we love ourselves, we will not argue as much because we will treat others as we want to be treated.
I Corinthians 13 closes with verse 13 "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Love is greater than faith and greater than hope.
When all else fails, praying is always something that we can do. We can pray for ourselves and for others.
I want to share more, invite more and love more. But I also need to pray more and I need to pray that I can share, invite and love more.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Think about that verse. It says that "this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." It's God's will that we rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances.
It's not easy to do these things all the time. However, if we pray more and seek to have a closer relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit it will be far easier than staying caught up in self.
To bring others to Christ, we have to share, we have to invite, we have to love and we have to pray. St. Augustine's mother, Monica, prayed for him for many years ( some say 30 - I've seen 17 ) and he became a great man of God. In other words, never stop praying even if it takes years.
Have you noticed that sharing, inviting, loving and praying all require ACTION? In other words, it's all faith in action.