Yesterday I told you about an opportunity to share the gospel with a coworker. He immediately left the room after making the comment that opened the door, so I was not able to share with him. However, another coworker was. And the path of the conversation was relayed to me shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly, almost immediately, became about what is and is not a sin.
I wish I could say this was the first time I ever heard a conversation go this way. Many times I have seen conversations which should have been about the gospel turn into conversations about morality. Is drinking wrong? What is the line you cross that becomes lust? So-and-so is a hypocrite. You can believe in God and not go to church. I have heard all these things repeatedly. Those conversations are not necessarily bad. However, if they distract from the Gospel they are a tragedy.
The person with the spiritual questions will almost always begin to turn a conversation this way. It is natural. They do it because they associate Christianity and morality. They think it is where the conversation should go. Also, I believe it allows them to feel better about their spiritual condition. If we are all sinners and we all fail, then a conversation about how we disagree about what even is a sin makes them feel as if they are in the same boat with the rest of humanity. Misery loves company, confusion does as well. There is comfort in the confusion I suppose. The problem is, this does not address their problem. A discussion of this type gives them no answers. A discussion of sin or hypocrisy with a person who is not a Christ-follower is completely unhelpful.
Imagine this conversation.
Cletus says, “How do you get to the grocery, Joe?” “Well, I’ll tell you. I always take the first left.” Joe replies. Cletus interrupts, “Jimbo says that there’s a lot of ways to go. He thinks that the second left is the best way” “C’mon Cletus. You know Jimbo gets lost wherever he goes. My way is better” “He might get lost a lot, but so do you. What makes your way so much better?”
Hopefully you can see that this conversation is not going to help Cletus get to the store. Ultimately it is going to leave him unsatisfied. He may find the store, but not because of his conversation with Joe.
This is a [probably overly distracting and unclear] analogy designed to illustrate the futility of focusing on the wrong thing. Whether or not Jimbo gets lost a lot does not matter. The question was, how do you get to the store? It was not answered. The most important thing is to answer the question.
Why does this happen so often? Two reasons. Number one I already shared. Lost people do not know the problem, they have a notion that morality and the afterlife are connected. So morality discussions seem to be the natural path for them. Also there is comfort in feeling like everyone is confused.
Number two is confusion on the part of Christians. Talk to some people in your church. I will bet that many of them cannot clearly articulate the gospel. And worse, many of them have also confused Christianity and moralism.
Briefly, the message of the gospel is this: God made us for fellowship with Him, but we cannot be in fellowship with Him because we are sinners and He is holy. Because of sin, we deserve death and hell. But because God loves us and wants that fellowship He made a way to restore it and for us to avoid the consequences of our sin. What is that way? Jesus, who is God, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected. In order for the gift of salvation to be effective you must, by faith, believe in this sacrifice on your behalf and ask Jesus to take control of your life.
That is the gospel message as briefly and clearly as I can state it. You may notice that there is not one word about morality in that, other than to say that everyone sins and Jesus did not. If I had been in the conversation with my coworker I guarantee he would have heard that message. Probably not that succinctly, but as clearly as I could make it while being sure that he understood. I would have asked him if he had ever heard that message before, and if he had come to a place in his life where he had placed his faith in Christ. I have no idea how he would have responded. I only know that by allowing the conversation to become about morality the message of the gospel was lost.
If you are reading this and you think that the gospel is the same as moralism, go back and read that paragraph again, click through the scripture references. There is nothing there about whether you can or cannot drink alcohol or how much money you give to the church or whether your neighbor kicks his dog or even whether you were baptized. None of that. The gospel is about restoring sinners to fellowship with God.
When we have opportunities to share the gospel it is very important that we use them wisely. With many people you may only get one opportunity. GIVE THEM THE GOSPEL. Please don’t get sidetracked with moralism.