Infuse Your Evangelism with Love and Humility

As a student of History and English Literature at a public university, the classroom is one of the clearest opportunities to interact with those who have completely different beliefs than me. I don’t mean that my classmates are apathetic or atheistic.

Many of them are deep thinkers, careful analysts, and individuals who are troubled by the injustices they see in the world. Most of my classmates are more than willing to share their opinions, and most of my professors often address the claims of Christianity as outdated—if not offensive.

In a recent class, I heard a classmate comment on “the Old Testament God.” This turn of phrase struck me, and I asked her what she meant by it. Her eyes lit up with the excitement of getting to explain her thoughts as she responded, “You know, like, the God that’s super harsh and brutal. He punishes people who disobey him, and if people are immoral, they will be killed.”

I could feel her watching my reaction. Would I affirm this idea, or be defensive? Would I breeze past the statement, or correct it? Despite the space for discussion such comments provide, I am often frustrated by the fact that there is no evangelistic formula to respond in this kind of setting. When a thousand words fly through my mind to share, which are the right ones?

Exposing Our Hearts

Small moments like this expose more about me than my classmates or professors. When I reflect upon the numerous examples of conversations like this one, I must ask myself some difficult questions: What is my first reaction towards these provocative statements? Am I being hardened or softened? Do I become self-defensive, or do I actually lay down what I want (the impulse to make my point) in order that those who do not know the gospel can hear it?

It is easy to become incensed. My pride swells at the opportunity to retaliate against claims that I know are unfounded or misrepresentative. In some ways, it is right to be angered by God’s name being blasphemed in these ways. God is holy! The Psalmist is right to sing, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 146:1). The familiar story of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3 is a story that reminds us of God’s holiness. His holiness, pictured as a consuming fire, reminds us of our unholiness.

At the same time, this same God who is perfect, completely other, and unfathomably holy is also the one who graciously draws near to us in our sin and weakness. This God who chooses one man to save many is the “God of the Old Testament” that my classmate despises. In the words of my pastor, “the God of the burning bush is also the Christ on the cross.”

In Jesus Christ, we see an even more vivid image of a God whose heart moves towards those who are full of sin and have nothing to offer him. Philippians 2:6–8 describes Christ’s condescension this way:

“…though he [Christ] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

If the one who was “in the form of God” submitted to becoming human and dying on the cross for sins that were not his, how much more should we be moved to compassion for fellow sufferers and sinners—those who need the gospel of grace just as desperately as we depend on it daily.

Imaging God’s Heart

When we humble ourselves to treat our neighbors and classmates with this kind of love rather than scalding retribution, we are imaging God’s heart for his people. Through the work of the Spirit, we should seek to cultivate an impulse to move toward those who are inconvenient or even hostile to reach. We should pray as we study the Scriptures—all of which testify to “the great love with which [God] loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) in Jesus—that the Spirit would continue to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) to humbly consider others, even those who seem to despise our Lord, as “more significant” than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Every day there is an opportunity before all of us—not only those who sit at desks and have class discussions on theology in literature—to be watchful and patient in explaining Jesus to our neighbors. Not every conversation calls for the same response.

In my classes, many conversations arise where I have the chance to talk about Jesus and to be bold. There are also spaces to simply ask questions, listen, and pray. It’s not always easy to know how to respond in a given situation. Regardless, it’s critical that we respond with love and humility.

These day-to-day conversations and relationships are gifts that are used to refine us. Though they often expose our coldness, they are an opportunity to remember the warmth of Christ’s heart for us, and, Lord willing, to love our neighbors—not only in words, but “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Mary Allison Anderson is a Senior majoring in History and English at Auburn University. She is involved in ministering to both high school and college students in Auburn through RUF’s ministry team and Christ Presbyterian Church.

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