From the last post we learned of four acts of love, Radical Hospitality, Fearless Conversation, Genuine Humility, and Divine Anticipation. What do these acts look like in the real world? These four acts will help you to show God’s love to others by letting God’s love to flow through you. To start you first should pray. Pray that your heart would be one full of love. Pray that you would show them respect and acceptance. Pray that you would notice the opportunities that God is placing in front of you in the conversation.
Radical Hospitality is welcoming people just as they are. Accepting the person does not mean you have to endorse their lifestyle, beliefs, behavior, or decisions. Ask God to give you the heart and eyes of Jesus when you meet a person. To show hospitality you need to seek out and build relationships. Let people know you are thinking of them. Note relationships and unconditional love take time, so be consistent. You build relationships by treating people with courtesy and respect. Let your words be good and helpful, an encouragement. Remember to forgive people, again and again. Relationships are messy, so expect surprises and disappointments. When in doubt, let love find a way. Smile! It makes a positive difference.
Fearless Conversation is a dialogue, which means you don’t lecture, rather you mostly listen and ask questions. Note it is also fearless, so that means we should not be afraid of having an open conversation. If you lose control of the conversation that is okay. Do not get defensive. Do not be afraid for God is with you. Always love the person you are conversing with. Sharing both ways can build a friendship. Listening, truly listening, is very important. Have an open mind and ask wondering questions. You can do that by starting the question with “I wonder”, “Could it be”, or “Some people say”. Asking questions is powerful. It is good to notice what people are really saying and doing. Pray often! Tell your own story and be personal. Be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you too have questions. Invite others to meet your friend Jesus. Be interested in people and their stories. Be willing to be vulnerable. Create a safe environment for discussion and disagreement to take place. Fearless conversation takes time. Don’t be afraid to ask the unexpected question. Remember you are seeking to understand the other person. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in the conversation. Use scripture and let scripture speak for itself. Encourage, thank, complement, and affirm people. Use direct communication. Ask permission for prayer and sharing.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but it is thinking of yourself less” (C. S. Lewis). Jesus humbled himself for us (Phillipians 2:6-11). Genuine humility is relational: meeting people where they are at; being open to learn from others; and being willing to admit mistakes. Communicate in an open, clear, straightforward manner. Being humble can put you out of your comfort zone, and you may not end up in control of the conversation. Humility is wrapped in love and in serving others. We need to be truly present and paying attention when talking with people. Give them your undivided attention. Look them in the eye. Ask questions to clarify what is being said. Be intentional about relationships. Nurture the relationships. Be intentional about being with others. Be open to meet the person where they are at. Work on building trust and honesty rather than solving a problem. Let your loving presence infect those around you. Be vulnerable in your relationships. Let people know that you are thinking of them. Be authentic. Do not merely tolerate people but accept them. Be willing to say you have questions too. You do not have all the answers. Let your actions speak for themselves. Let the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) speak for you. Seek to understand the other person. Be gracious and forgiving. Pray for even your enemies and leave the rest to God. Remember God is in control.
God is at work in our daily lives. Are we looking for or anticipating his actions? That is Divine Anticipation. God is here ready to connect with you in a fresh way. Since God is actively at work, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to do his work. Most of the time the supernatural is camouflaged in the natural. Remember that God’s mighty power is at work in and through us. God is relevant to everyone. Addressing the concerns of people is being relevant. Expect God to be showing up. You just don’t know when he will appear. He is the one in control. Trust that God will do what only God can do. We need to tell others our story in an authentic and natural way. Tell them what God is doing in our own lives and in the lives of others. People will express their faith in their own way. Look for God sightings (i.e. God working in your life). Go ahead and embrace your weaknesses. God can work through your weaknesses. Have a soft heart and be open to God’s action. Help people connect the dots and point them to Jesus and the cross. Be a safe place and welcome other people’s spiritual encounters. God can do some amazing things. Trust God and realize that you don’t know what God is up to. Pray! Pray! Pray! God always wants to be connected to you. You need to slow down, be still, pray, and listen to God by reading the Bible daily. Let the biblical truths sink in again and again. And be thankful in all things. It is good for you and being thankful makes us mindful of God’s presence.
When you do the four acts of love, be a regular person like Jesus, who got dirty in the details of life. Our job is to be a matchmaker. We connect people with Jesus. Remember God is the one who saves people, and he is the one in control. So don’t be afraid. Fear is your worst enemy.
Most of this information is from the book “Why Nobody Wants to be Around Christians Anymore” by Thom and Joani Schultz (2014).
2 thoughts on “Four Acts of Love in Action”
Those thoughts from that book are good, solid advice. And now I’d like to focus on where we Christians tend to fail the most in our interactions with unbelievers.
I think we followers and disciples of Christ need to think a lot more about how to verbally share our faith. Sometimes I think we rely too much on waiting for an easy and natural moment to almost effortlessly slide into a spiritual discussion with a non-Christian, but those ‘easy and natural’ moments often never come, and sometimes our unchurched friends die before we’ve ever felt comfortable enough to have any spiritual heart-to-heart discussions with them. At some point we simply must take a risk. It’s just too important to postpone forever.
Two days ago I found out about the death of an old acquaintance, Erwin, a 92-year-old Jew with whom I’d never really shared my faith. I’d known him and his wife Barbara for 35 years. 30 years ago I tried to share the Gospel with Barbara, who is also Jewish, but she was putting up a lot of resistance, mostly with her ideas that she’s been good enough and that God ‘grades on a curve’, so she didn’t think she needed a savior, and besides, if God was a moral absolutist, then she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a god like that. But I never actually had a spiritual conversation with Erwin. He was more of an acquaintance than a friend, and I did not have as much in common with him as I had with Barbara, and I had never talked with him nearly as much as I talked with Barbara. After 35 years of on-and-off contact with the two of them, I never really felt like I had a close enough relationship with Erwin and enough access to his heart to actually have that ‘risky’ conversation about how he could have an absolute assurance of eternal life. But maybe I was being too timid. A year ago I finally sent Barbara a book that my theologian friend Les Brittingham wrote, called “Christianity in the Courtroom: A Defense of the Faith”, and I indicated that I intended it for both her and Erwin. Barbara called to thank me for the book, but said she doubted it would convert her. I told her to give it chance, but I have no idea whether either one of them actually read it or what they thought about it. I doubt it got read much, if at all.
Nonetheless, I’ve decided during these last couple days that I need to do a better job of preparing myself for sharing the Gospel with anyone, whether they’re atheist, agnostic, New Age, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, and whether they’re close friends or someone I just became acquainted with at work or in my neighborhood or while sitting next to them on an airplane. Yes, Jesus did say, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” (Matt. 5:16), but the Apostle Paul also wrote in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” As Christians, aren’t both our good works AND our verbally sharing the Gospel equal parts of our “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15)?
The book authors quoted above don’t deny that, but building friendships and doing nice things for people is easy and safe, which is why Christians who do any outreach at all among the unchurched stop there and never go any farther than that. Unfortunately, most Christians never go the rest of the way and actually have that spiritual discussion about the only way to eternal life. The ultimate challenge of the Great Commission is to be ready to share *verbally* with anyone, as the Holy Spirit leads us. If a deep friendship is the minimum level of relationship in which some Christians would be willing to actually share their faiths with spoken words and Biblical references, then the odds are that they’ll never share their faiths with more than two or three people in their entire lifetimes, if even that many. Declining churches and the declining morality in our nation (which is directly linked) are clear indicators that Christians are failing in large numbers to tell people about the specific and only way to eternal life, and Who that way is (John 14:6).
We should not only ask God to provide us opportunities to share our faiths, but also that he provide us the discernment and alertness to see those opportunities, as well as the courage to take advantage of them. And we should prepare ourselves ahead of time too. Just as reading the Bible in its entirety and memorizing key passages provides us tools in our spiritual tool belts with which to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), and lends weight and authority to what we say, but we might also seriously consider reading some of the many books about ways to share and defend our faith, and the truth and historicity of the Bible, and the evidence of intelligent design in the world and universe, and how to connect with people of other faiths and start talking with them from where they’re at right now. The more we prepare ourselves, the more readily the Holy Spirit can use us.