The Bible tells Christians to be salt and light – influencers in a dark world. When it comes to evangelism it seems that the influence of culture is overshadowing the biblical commission. It’s important for Christians to identify that because it may be coming from an unexpected source… their church.
“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’ And they had nothing say.” (Luke 14:1-6)
Doctrinal controversies surrounded Jesus’s question when Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Some within the Jewish camp thought it was okay while others strictly prohibited it. For this reason, only silence greeted his question.
Mosaic law did not prohibit healing on the Sabbath, it was church tradition that forbade such activities.
Usually Jesus does not ask before he acts. He does not concern himself about being judged. Perfect love prompts his responses. Perfect grace prompts his actions. It was church culture that forbade healing on the Sabbath and Jesus was going to have none of that. Like a loving mother rescuing a child, or a farmer rescuing a prized ox, Jesus rescues people – especially those who appear right before his face.
The man with dropsy was desperate for healing and Jesus didn’t hold back. There are people in our communities who are desperate for spiritual healing, but many are too timid to go to church and meet Jesus. They need believers to come to deliver a message and plant the seeds of the gospel.
As silence greeted Jesus’ question, silence is also a typical response when pastors ask their members to participate in evangelism.
Church culture says, “Let the pastor do the talking. That’s what he is trained to do. Evangelism is not just me.”
A church culture can properly teach the importance of evangelism and financially supporting missions across the world, but only if somebody else is doing it.
A church culture can improperly teach that verbally proclaiming the gospel to lost souls is just not something we do.
Jesus provides a wonderful illustration to drive his point home. All traditions go out the window when a child is in danger. Desperate parents will seek the best medical care, help raise money to find a cure, or dive in head first if their child needs to be rescued from a dangerous situation. If a mother has a three-year-old trapped in a well, she will alarm her neighbors, call the police, hire a crew, even call the governor if that would help rescue her child.
We are dumbfounded by the silence when Jesus asks the Pharisees an obvious question. Why wouldn’t you break the Sabbath and rescue a child? Why wouldn’t you rescue your prized ox?
Our physical eyes respond to the obvious, but perhaps our response might be different when we are posed with the same question through the eyes of faith?
What if our neighbor who appears to have no use for Christ suddenly is found on the precipice of hell and needs to be rescued from eternal death?
What if our child joins a cult and is absolutely convinced that they will be in heaven? What if they reject God and become an agnostic?
Suddenly we are confronted by culture that promotes tolerance and we say nothing.
Suddenly we are confronted by church culture that is afraid to speak.
With the same sense of urgency, there are lost souls who have a faithful father or grandmother praying for a lost child or grandchild who have spiritually fallen into a well. There is nothing they can do. They refuse to listen. They are praying for believers to come and rescue them – to plant the seeds of God’s Word – to proclaim the message of God’s love.
To the casual observer, the answers to Jesus’ questions were obvious. Jesus did the right thing by healing the man with dropsy. Church culture provoked their silence.
Let’s not allow church culture to influence our silence when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. There are hurting people who God is preparing to hear the message of salvation. And they are appearing before us ready to receive our words.
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