Prayer Thought: True Gospel Evangelism: Rational or Reactionary?
“No matter how dear you are to God, if pride is harboured in your spirit, He will whip it out of you. They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.”
The 94th Annual Academy Awards were on last night and it was certainly one to remember. Chris Rock, a professional comedian, was presenting an award and started cracking a few jokes per usual. He mentioned Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife, in one of his jokes saying, “Jada, I can’t wait to see you in G.I. Jane 2…I’m excited!” Here’s what you need for a brief backstory. The original female actress in the first G.I. Jane movie had a completely shaved head. Jada also had a shaved head at the Oscars, but it was not purposefully for a movie role. Pinkett Smith has been very open and public about struggling with an autoimmune disease, Alopecia Areata, causing extreme hair loss. So, needless to say this was a sensitive topic to begin with. And then Chris Rock made a very inappropriate and untoward joke about it in front of millions of people. Will Smith did NOT take kindly to the joke, walked up on stage and hit Chris Rock square in the jaw, walked back to his seat and lividly yelled some inappropriate things as well as telling Rock to keep Jada’s name out of his mouth. All of this was not a joke nor scripted to happen.
Here’s the point: both of these men handled this situation very poorly. There’s a time and a place for everything. Do I condone violence? No. Do I condone making fun of something this sensitive? No. But this needed to be handled in private no matter what the outcome. Do I think Will Smith should have stood up for his wife? Absolutely. But these Hollywood elites were nowhere close to being rational. They were emotionally charged and reactionary.
As I reflected on this wild event, it brought me to think about how Christians and how our missionaries act and respond to others who are very against what we believe. Many people around the globe hate Christianity and hate Christians. We are mocked, told we are close-minded bigots. We are bombarded with accusatory questions regarding love, homosexuality, abortion, rights and freedoms, racism, classism, sexism etc. Many times, people are very emotional and extremely reactionary and not rational thinkers. Our missionaries deal with this kind of spiritual and emotional attack on a daily basis, more often than not.
Questions come from every side: If God is so loving, why did He create Hell? Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people? I prayed to God for my father to be healed from cancer and he stilled died. If God is all-powerful why is my father dead?
We could literally go on for hours with these questions and then take them apart piece by piece apologetically, but that’s not what I want us to focus on. What I DO want us to grasp is how important it is for us as believers, for the wonderful missionary families and individuals we support, to be so focused on God’s Word and so solid in our communion with Him, that we keep a rational level heart and head about us as we present the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel message doesn’t sound like good news for the unbeliever who is irrational, angry, and actively looking for holes in God’s message. We must be rational and certainly logical when someone becomes belligerent and reactionary. The disconnect for them is a big one. So many of our missionaries experience people who talk strictly about God’s love without a capacity to see His other amazing attributes.
Here’s what I think we need to keep doing: be patient, be loving, be considerate of these people’s feelings, practice self-control, be humble, pray diligently for the conversations you get to have with people who don’t share the same views as you. But also, be encouraged to speak truth, to know and defend the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Pt. 3:15), to present the Gospel just as it is and allow the Holy Spirit to convict, to live such a holy life that those who once desired to shame us see Christ now instead.
When faced with a very difficult, accusatory person, do you respond rationally or become reactionary at first? Spend time this week praying for specific missionaries we have that face such opposition on a daily basis. Ask the Lord to be ever-present in their conversations. Pray that God leads many, many more to the Son through all of our efforts. Respond in love when someone reviles you, and persevere!
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer