In my life, I have several people who I love dearly and I joke around with and tease them. One really special lady is a few years older than me (many actually), but she is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. Her energy level is like someone in their 30’s even though she is much older than that. She runs circles around most people and no one her age can even come close to catching up with her. Because of that and her genuine and gracious heart I love to pick on her and joke around with her.
When I know she is within earshot of me, I start singing songs of her greatness. She just smiles and says to me, “Oh you’re just trying to butter me up! Now, what do you want!!” I always just laugh and then she laughs. We just have fun with it. But there are times that she needs me to do something. And there are times that I need her to do something. Since we’ve known each other for so long this banter is just a part of the relationship. And I have to say, it is an absolute joy working with this amazing lady. I especially love that we can joke around in a playful way.
Yet, I know all of us have people in our lives where we know when they call or text, they always need something. Many times, they really don’t care what is going on in your life. Their pressing need is now the most important issue and they need you.
The Nature of Sales
Are you someone who hates going to buy a car or furniture? You walk on the car lot or into the store and immediately you are almost assaulted by a salesman. Before you can get another breath, they are trying to sell you something. Now, a good salesperson knows how to build a relationship with you. They ask questions to get to know the things you like and what your needs are for this purchase. If you have experienced a great salesperson, by the end of the purchase you almost feel like you have a new friend, and you believe you have received a great deal on the price and you can’t wait to begin using your purchase.
It may not be the best example, but my wife and I have experienced those types of salespeople who made the buying experience enjoyable. However, we have also had the opposite and felt we just got robbed or cheated, and we left very unhappy.
Something For You, Not From You
In both relationships and in making large purchases, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the friend or salesperson wanted something for you and not from you. That premise and approach would change everything, especially in how you perceive the relationship and transaction.
Now, think about what that approach would do in having gospel conversations with others and actually inviting them to join you at a Bible study or church worship service. What difference would it make for the person you are interacting with? If they truly experience that kind of care and true love from you, would their response to you be different? Honestly, I believe it would make a substantial difference.
The Gift of Love
Recently, I was talking with a group of students about atheism. I asked them, “How many of you know someone who is an atheist?” Every hand in the room went up. We began to talk about what an atheist believes about God and how that belief carries into the way they view the world around them. From that point of view, it is very difficult to discuss God and even more so Jesus Christ. I went on to say if you approach this atheist with the intent of proving them wrong in what they believe about God and making them understand and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, you are going about it the wrong way. If they did accept there is a God and also Jesus as Redeemer, then it wouldn’t matter, right?
Let’s think about that for a minute. If I was able to disprove the beliefs of an atheist, and truly there is great evidence that proves the existence of God and completely qualifies Him as Creator and Designer, but the whole motive of my heart is “I’m right and you’re wrong”. That motive would come out in everything I did and said. There is no love in that at all. Yet, Jesus said we as His followers would be known for our love. Are you known for your love of others?
In this example, I would not be interacting with my atheist friend in a way where I wanted something for them. It would be the opposite. I would want something from them. I would want them to say, “You were right, and I was wrong.” Honestly, I could care less if anyone thinks that I am right in my viewpoints. In fact, the thing I care about the most is can they experience the love of God through me. For my atheist friends, I don’t want something from them. I want something for them. And that transcends to anyone I come in contact with or in a relationship. I want them to experience the love of God and forgiveness and freedom from sin I have found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I want salvation for them. I want hope for them. I want them to have the life God intended.
The Power of Invitation – Be Loved
In the power of invitation rests a great foundation of love. In fact, our invitation to anyone is to simply be loved. Expressed in God’s invitation to the world is His love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” His invitation to believe in Him is an invitation to receive and experience the love He loves the world with. God is constantly inviting us to be loved by Him! When you and I come into a love relationship with God through His Son Jesus, it is absolutely life changing!
Because of this truthful and honest approach to the relationships in life, when I sit down with the rich, the gifted, the talented, those who are well connected, I’m not thinking how can get something from them. How can this person help me to achieve my goals and what I want? No, I desire something for them.
No matter if it is an atheist or anyone who is not in a thriving love relationship with Jesus, you can have gospel conversations with them by just inviting them to be loved. To be loved by God, but also to be loved by you. As you love them and allow your life to be an example in front of them, the love of God and His Spirit will be at work. You don’t have to do the job of convincing or convicting. That’s God’s job. Over time, they will come to know that you don’t want something from them. You want something for them. Be the difference.
More in this series:
The Power of Invitation Part 1 – Awareness, Now Who Are You Again?