I probably don’t have to tell you that our emotions have a tremendous effect upon our ability to efficiently share the Gospel message… or that our ability (or inability) to keep them in check can have an enormous impact on the nature and direction of our dialogues. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have emotions; just that we allow God to master them instead of allowing them to master us.
Perhaps you’ve seen a few reruns of the old crime drama “Dragnet”. The main character was a straight-talking detective by the name of Joe Friday. His catchphrase from one episode to the next was, “Just the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.” It was a good slogan for a cop seeking the truth about a crime, but it’s also a good slogan for a Christian seeking to share the truth of the Gospel with a world that’s been victimized by evil.
In today’s society, we tend to avoid topics like politics and religion because discussions in these veins can become heated and even confrontational – often in just a matter of seconds. Before you know what’s hit you, two semi-mature people are yelling and name-calling and for no apparent reason other than that they disagree! So what makes these topics such hot-spots for many in our society? The answer is emotion.
If I were to ask you to name the top five factors that define who you are as a human being, you’d probably put Jesus at the top of that list. Strangely enough, many other people (even atheists – though they may not know it) feel just as strongly that their religious views make them who they are. The result of this is that if you even appear to be attacking those views, many people will take it as an assault on them as a moral person or even on their rights to a basic human existence. It’s this emotion that can turn a civil discussion in your school or company cafeteria into an anger-laden food fight. One of the best things you can learn to do when it comes to sharing the Good News about Jesus is to emotionally disconnect from what you’re saying.
I found a good trial ground for this disconnect several years ago while volunteering at the local museum. The directors had brought in a very informative display about the history of the Bible. It began with the origins of writing and ended with the translation of the Hebrew and Greek into King James English. It was a “facts-only” display based upon secular scholarship. All of the museum volunteers were told that if we had our own religious interpretations of this material, it was fine… but that we weren’t to be sharing those interpretations with the visitors. Our job was simply to present the facts and let those visitors decide how to interpret them for themselves.
Now I confess that I went into the situation hoping to have some opportunities to share the truth about Jesus with the other museum volunteers. What I didn’t expect was that I would have some very good opportunities to share the same truth with several of the museum’s patrons as well. How did this happen without my breaking the rules set forth by the exhibit’s director? I simply presented the facts.
This tactic was particularly useful when I worked the portion of the museum that covered the Council of Nicea. Many people today believe that the Emperor Constantine called the council because he didn’t approve of all the divergent teachings amongst those who called themselves “Christian”. It was in the Empire’s best interests to unite these sects under a common system of belief… so the council was formed. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
I had several interesting opportunities to address the fact that the Christians who met at the council didn’t always agree on minor doctrinal issues, but that an overwhelming majority did agree on the major ones. Of course this statement led to questions about the key doctrines of Christianity and I suddenly had an open door to give a “just the facts” presentation of the Salvation Message – never once even hinting that this was what I, myself, believed. I actually watched one couple change their views about Christianity while standing right there with me! And all I did was unemotionally present the facts.
Now, I can hear you saying, “That’s great, but how do you emotionally disconnect during a discussion with a close friend who already does know what you believe. Won’t it sound like a memorized speech?” May it never be! We aren’t talking about ignoring feelings or experience, just keeping our emotions in check. In fact, often times in personal encounters it’s your own experience as a follower of Christ that will help that friend/classmate/co-worker/family member truly connect with the Gospel message. The item at issue here is not what you share, but how you do the sharing.
Let the facts speak for themselves and don’t get drug into the emotional quagmire created by attacks on your Savior. God can defend Himself – you’re just His messenger.