Sunday, July 29, 2007

What Do You Think About Jesus?

**This appears as an article in our current church newsletter**

Today as much as ever, people always have an opinion about anything and everything. Maybe the only difference is that nowadays people are more unabashed about making their opinions known. And yet political correctness and a fear of causing offense often hangs in tension with this tendency. Perhaps we may find it difficult to enter the “marketplace of ideas” as Christians.

Yet as Christians who seek to have meaningful interaction with the world around us, we may wonder how to engage those around us in conversation about The Faith. Here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church we desire to do evangelism—the spreading of the Good News about Jesus. Sunday mornings in adult Bible class we are trying to equip ourselves for this task. However, like many things, it is easier said than done. After all, the world is increasingly full of “opinions” and many which are hostile to the Christian Faith. We may be intimidated into silence.

But I would like to suggest that our “opinionated” society can actually work to our advantage in the task of evangelism. The question “What do you think of Jesus?” (which is also the title of a book by a professor of mine) is an “opinion” question that you can ask anyone, and be fairly certain that they will be willing to volunteer their opinion, even if they are not a Christian. I think it might be an easier entryway into conversation than some other ways, simply because even if they haven’t thought about it before, most people will have at least a knee-jerk response to the question. And that opens the door to further discussion if they haven’t thought it through. (I’ll give some examples later)

So why this question? The reason I think that this is such an important question is because it gets right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian, and what we believe, because it confronts us with the person of Jesus Himself. The question really comes from Jesus, when He was asking His disciples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13ff) Like you might expect today, Jesus got a variety of answers: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But when Jesus pressed the question further, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter’s confession of faith was not his own, it was given to him by God, for no one can confess “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3) Of course, Peter gave the only correct answer to the question, and that is the answer to which we would direct our conversation with those we talk with.

But when we ask the question, “What do you think of Jesus?” out in the world, you may expect to get all sorts of answers. Ranging from the fairly neutral to the more hostile, we might hear something like these: “Well, I think he was a really nice guy, and taught people to love each other…I respect that.” Or “He always put others first, and ended up getting a bad rap and then he died, but I’m not sure why…” Or “I’m not really sure if he ever really existed, but I guess he inspired a lot of folks.” Or “He was certainly a great teacher, but I don’t believe he was the Son of God or the Messiah.” Or “I think he was a promoter of dangerous ideas and was delusional about himself.” All these we might expect to hear from a non-Christian, and each provides its own avenue into further discussion.

How might such a talk start? With all the media attention and books out about Jesus and supposed lost gospels and conspiracy theories, there are plenty of opportunities to ask someone, “Hey, did you hear about such and such that they are saying about Jesus?….So what do you think about Jesus anyhow?” The conversation might start over coffee or lunch break, or while your at some sporting event with other parents. The nice thing about having an “opinionated” society is that most people don’t mind sharing theirs. As Christians, we can use that as a doorway to tell the real story about Jesus—who He said He was (the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and mankind’s only Savior), and what He did for us (died on the cross for our sins and rose to eternal life).

Having these conversations can get people to confront the figure of Jesus in a way to consider who He really is, and why His life was such a turning point for human history. We can help people to see the inconsistency different opinions they might have about Jesus, and how ultimately only Peter’s confession “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” fully explains the person of Jesus Christ. So you are still uncertain about how to answer the questions your friend might raise after you’ve broached this topic? No problem! Get yourself involved in one of the many Bible studies at Emmauel, study the Bible yourself for the answers, or talk to one of your pastors! All are at your fingertips and ready to help equip each of you to help engage in this exciting task. To God be the Glory!

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

Good to see a blog with theology. Can I commend my blog?