A few years ago, I arrived at the train station on my way home from work. It was dark, cold and wet. The walk home would be long and I was tired, so I thought about treating myself to a taxi. Then anxiety kicked in, the taxi driver would ask me about my day and to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to tell them where I’d been. I’d love to write that I overcame my fear-driven apathy and got in the taxi. Sadly, on this occasion, fear won and I walked home. You may be wondering, what on earth could you have been doing that day which caused you to avoid talking about it. The answer is – at an evangelism equipping day, that I’d been leading. Oh the irony!
I use this story to highlight what I think is a crucial concept when we think about evangelism: fear of others strangles the gospel, love of others is the life of the gospel.
It’s easy to focus on the reasons why many Christians, myself included, find it difficult to share their faith. Yet I think if we simply focus on the negatives, it’s possible we miss the more potent motivating force of love. Think of the accounts in Acts. The first followers of Jesus had something to say, and it seems you couldn’t stop them from speaking about what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). Their actions strike me as similar to myself when I’ve watched a great movie or seen a brilliant goal on Match of the Day, I want other people to know about it. You share the things you love. In the case of evangelism, we share the one we love with those we’ve been called to love, as we love ourselves.
Jesus’ command that we love God with all we’ve got and love our neighbours as we love ourselves, is often called upon to remind the Church that we are people who have received mercy and therefore we should go and do likewise. Jesus did feed the hungry and heal the sick, his ministry was full of grace and compassion. And we, his ambassadors here on earth, should go and do likewise. Yet Jesus is also the Word made flesh, he is God’s word to humanity, and that word is a “yes”. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The great commission of Matthew 28 is a crucial part of outworking the great commandment. We love God by doing what He says (John 14:15) and Jesus is clear, we are called to go and make disciples, to be witnesses to him to the ends of the earth. In living out this calling we are inhabiting God’s will for His people, through doing what He’s told us as we seek to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Unfortunately, evangelism is often caricatured in such a way that you would never think it was an act of love. But if we think it’s true that Jesus came to bring life in all its fullness, in this life and the next, surely it’s an act of love to speak up about this new life. Evangelism is not for the committed few, rather we’re reflecting the self-revealing God who we serve by being witnesses to him. God has spoken through his Word, that the world might be able to know Him.
Why share our faith? Because God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life and God calls his children to reflect this love in our words and actions.