“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:27-28)
As I sat there, in stunned silence, someone I love dearly railed and fumed…about me. Well, not directly about me, but the words “evangelical Christian” were a part of the rant, and that, well, that’s me.
I am an evangelical Christian. I have been for years. And this individual has expressed in the past a fervent displeasure for evangelical Christianity, so in many ways it wasn’t a shock. But at this moment, it hurt much more than it ever has before. It hurt more than the time this person, who is considerably more than just an acquaintance, wrote me a ten page letter outlining how a choice in front of me which I was in the first stages of exploring could terminate our relationship pending the outcome. The latter was a direct assault on me; the former was a comment that was a generalized statement about Christians as a group.
Why did this new pejorative use of evangelical Christian cut so deeply?
Because for the first time, I could hear the vitriol against not me, but against God Himself.
Previously, the anger, the disappointment, the fist-balling had been directed at me. It was a load my shoulders could bear, even though at first it was overwhelming. Now, though, the fiery rage wasn’t directed at an individual, but an entire group and ultimately the One who called the group into existence.
And therein lies the problem.
If someone has already dismissed me as a member of the evangelical Christian community, how can I speak truth into the life of that person?
How do I, an evangelical Christian, share the gospel with this person?
How do I bridge that gap?
I know the truth, in particular the above verse from Hebrews 9. Even though I don’t know the particulars because nobody knows exactly what happens after death, I do know man dies and there follows a judgment. I know that Christ will come a second time to rescue those who are “eagerly waiting for him”. I know that without that realization, without repentance, without a complete change of heart, this person for whom I care deeply is going to be judged, is going to perish without hope, is going to hell.
I doubt this person is unaware of the hurt the words cause me. I am, in fact, certain this person knows the words hit me in a soft spot. I am 100% positive, at the same time, the message I received was not intended to break my heart. My heart breaks because I know what can heal the hurt that brought this individual to lash out at Christians, to come unglued at God, to be full of fury about evangelicals. I understand both the hurt and the healing. I get the response. If we traded places, I would be hard pressed not to respond similarly. So, the question remains…
How do I share the gospel with this person?
I must tell of Christ. It will cost me this relationship. It will likely cost me a great deal more than that.
But I must tell of Christ.