I don’t talk about Jesus enough. You probably don’t either. Does that come off harsh? Judgmental? Insensitive? It probably does, and those things may be turn-offs to the gospel. But the truth is that however it came off, it actually came off. Do you know what perhaps is a bigger turn off to the gospel? Silence. And many of us are silent because we are scared of conflict. We are scared of people thinking the wrong things about us (which is a valid concern). What’s an even more valid concern is that although our slience ensures that people don’t think the wrong thing about us, it almost definitely ensures that people continue to think the wrong thing about Jesus.
DON'T LET HIM BE MISUNDERSTOOD
Jesus needs to be talked about, because Jesus is misunderstood. Silence, especially when it comes to the most controversial of things, only ensures that Jesus is continually misunderstood. And as long as He is misunderstood, people think they are doing the best thing for themselves by trying to stay away from him.
Acts 5 brings this point out the most clearly. The leaders of the day are adamant about repeatedly telling the disciples to stop teaching people about Jesus. What’s worse is the reason why they don’t want to hear about Jesus. They completely misunderstood Him. When talking to the disciples, they say, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28). Did you see that? They didn’t want to hear about Jesus, because when they thought about the intent of the disciples message, all they saw was guilt. They basically said, "We don’t want to hear what you have to say, because you just want to make us feel guilty." What better words could be used to describe (1) the worldview of people that aren’t Christians and (2) our biggest fear and reason why we don’t share?
Christianity and Jesus are very loaded terms. When we start to talk about them, or even make a reference to Jesus, people don’t hear what we say. Often when we say Jesus, they hear their guilt. And they conclude:
You just want to make me feel guilty about my homosexual lifestyle.
You just want to make me feel guilty about the fact I want to have an abortion.
You just want to make me feel guilty about the music I listen to, the way I spend my money, and the things that I consume on the weekends.
You just want to make me feel guilty about [insert your particular vice here].
We are scared of guilt. For the most part, especially in the society that we live in, people aren’t concerned with being guilty. They just don’t want to feel guilty. We are okay with being at fault, just as long as we get away with it. What we hate the most is the nagging feeling of someone telling us that we didn’t get away with it. Understand that just because you don’t feel guilty doesn’t mean you’re innocent.
It’s this reason in particular that people reject Jesus—He won’t turn a blind eye to anyone’s guilt. When face to face with someone’s guilt, Jesus won’t act like it’s not a big deal—nodding his head and using verbal fillers like “yeah” or “I know what you mean” in hopes that the conversation will switch to another topic. But that’s what people want. We don’t want to linger on people’s guilt or their sin. We don’t want to hear that our sins are actually worse than we ever thought. We believe that if our guilt is found and maximized, it would prevent us from receiving God’s grace. Yet, this is the reason why the gospel is such good news. Our guilt doesn't prevent us from receiving God’s grace; it prepares us to receive God’s grace with humility and gratitude.
Tell the whole truth
So, the reason we have to continually talk about Jesus is to remind people that Jesus is trying to ensure that guilt is not the end of the road. Our guilt can be paralyzing, and it’s easy to think that denial is the best way to deal with it. But guilt can’t just be denied; it has to be done away with. Jesus came so that He could deal with guilt. Here's what the disciples said about their guilt, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree.” Not only do they reassure the religious leaders they are guilty, but they let them know that their guilt is worse than they think. It’s never our job to soften the blow of guilt. IF we minimize guilt, we minimize the grace that’s needed to deal with that guilt. If we maximize the guilt, however, we maximize the grace that’s needed to deal with that guilt. As sure as the disciples make mention of the guilt, they move to grace. Jesus didn’t die to hold your guilt against you. Jesus died to “give repentance and forgiveness.” This is why Christianity is such good news—my guilt makes me a prime candidate for God’s grace. The bigger my guilt, the bigger His grace. People see the holiness of Jesus; so, their guilt is apparent, but they don’t understand that His love is just as great.
In our silence, we take part in two great evils (1) minimizing the guilt of the individuals we have relationship with and (2) perpetuating the misconceptions of Jesus. And we do all of this to make sure that we don’t seem awkward or hurt people’s feelings. Basically, we let people go to hell out of charity to them. We would rather be in their good graces then hit a nerve that will potentially expose the hurt and pain they’ve been numb to and increase their need for and appreciation of a Savior.
Please, please, please talk about Jesus with someone today. I’m begging you. Clear up the misconception that He just wants to make people feel guilty. Help them understand that the only reason He even mentions our guilt is so that we can understand His grace. Don’t let people go to hell because they misunderstand Jesus.
There may not be a cute or clever way to start this conversation, but don’t let that stand in your way.
There’s too much at stake.