Matthew 22:35-40 says: One of them (the Pharisees), an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We Christians talk and preach a great deal about being soul winners, and this is proper.
Allow me to reminisce from my past what witnessing was:
- Passing out tracts on the street.
- Having street meetings.
- Being known for regular church attendance, minimum Sunday AM and PM and Wednesday PM prayer meeting.
- Being known for what we didn’t do: movies, dancing, smoking, drinking, etc. You know the routine.
- Carrying your Bible to school, church, etc. (We were told to put it on the top of our books.)
- Having modest dress and appearance (makeup, etc.)
Here is an honest question: what was the message we were delivering? How many people did it attract and how many did it repel? How many people thought we were weird or ever even noticed?
There is nothing inherently wrong with the above; the question relates to its effectiveness.
On the other hand, what attracts people to anything? Could it be friendliness, concern, helpfulness, cooperation? But we were taught separation!
Let us say you were moving into a new neighborhood and wanted to make friends. What would you do? Would you avoid them? Be critical of them? Ignore their needs when you could help?
“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”—Madeleine L’Engle
Let me make this clear: I am not your poster boy on this issue. I was about as judgmental as possible, am not the friendliest person in the room, and felt I had a testimony to uphold. I was never the life of the party or the focus of the crowd.
The more I examine my heart and my experience, I see that loving your neighbor is the issue.
Are we the positive or negative pole on the magnet?
I taught school for 10 years in a tough district where violence and disruption was the norm. I could write pages of illustrations. Discipline in the classrooms and the school buildings in general was a challenge, to say the least. But one teacher, Clem, always had bus duty in my building. And he ruled with an iron fist. He was short and stocky and probably wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight with a big kid. But no one gave him a problem. Here’s why: he loved the kids and messed with them all the time. They wanted him to like them. He joked and carried on, even in his discipline. At times I watched him in amazement.
I observed that the best teachers were many times former camp counselors. Why were they camp counselors? Because they loved kids.
Logic forces me to the conclusion that, if we are going to draw people to Christ, they must see that we love them.
I need all the help I can get on this issue. How about you?
Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.