While we’re currently living in a very politically divisive and emotionally charged time, there was never a time in our lives when the Gospel message was more relevant. Why? Because every human actually wants the same two things. They just go after them in very different ways. Everyone wants freedom and life, and Jesus gives us both of these in spades!
Bill Vanderbush made this point in a recent message that I thought was very timely for us, considering the cultural climate we find ourselves in. He said that if we would just allow our conversations with those who oppose us to get down to our core values we would find that we both want the same thing.
“Every single human being on the earth that can fog a mirror, can draw breath, and has a heartbeat, has the same two values—freedom and life. NOBODY wants to be controlled, and everybody wants life more abundantly. And this is why the message of the gospel is more important right now than it’s ever been before.”
And, of course, freedom and life is precisely why Jesus came!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal.5:1 NIV*)
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NIV)
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV*)
Beloved, this IS the good news that brings great joy! Jesus came to give us true freedom and give us His life to empower that freedom! We’ve been invited into the very life of the One called Love who holds all of creation together at this moment! There’s no distance or separation anymore between us and God. No more hiding in the bushes behind our religious fig leaves. He is the Truth about God and about us, and He gives us His life to live in order to launch us on a trajectory of ever-increasing freedom!
32 For if you embrace the truth, it will release more freedom into your lives.” (John 8:32 TPT)
The problem is, “religion” and political ideologies tend to separate us from each other and basically confuse and poison everything. But that’s another subject for another time.
Vanderbush gives the following example of a conversation between a liberal and a conservative. He says, “Ask the liberal, ‘What threatens you about that conservative?’, or to the conservative, ‘What threatens you about that liberal?'”
CONSERVATIVE: “That person on the left is trying to control my faith, trying to control my money, and they’re trying to control my guns…therefore, control…I’m for freedom! On top of that, they’re for abortion; they’re for death, I’m pro-life! So…I’m for freedom and life, and they are for death and control…”
LIBERAL: “That person on the right is trying to control my morality, my life. They’re trying to tell me what I can do and what I can’t do with my body. They’re trying to basically take away all of my choices…On top of that, that conservative is for capital punishment and war…therefore, they are for death and control. I am for freedom and life!”
Do you see the similarities? Both people want the same things, albeit for very different reasons.
It doesn’t matter if the specific accusations against your position are true; what matters is, where is this person at a heart level? Jesus always spoke to the heart of people. That’s why His responses often didn’t seem to make sense.
For instance, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well to go get her husband, which had absolutely nothing to do with the argument she was making. Instead, He was locating her heart, addressing her shame, so He could set her free through the offer of everlasting life, which is what she was really looking for. The result was that the whole city came out to see Jesus (see John 4:5-30). Now, that’s effective evangelism!
We’re not that effective because we don’t address the heart. We tend to respond to the argument. But it’s with the heart that one believes, not the argument. The heart always comes before the logic. We only need the argument to justify why we made the decision.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Rom.10:10 NIV*)
We must remember that every human being has the DNA of heaven stamped on their hearts (Eccl.3:11). Paul said that he commended himself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor.4:2). So we, too, can find common ground if we will allow the conversation to go deep enough to reach these intrinsic core values.
While it’s true that not everyone will respond to this reality, we can certainly be more effective than we are by understanding that they really want the same things as us. We can learn a lot from Jesus’ and Paul’s methods. And we can do this without attacking the other person or compromising our faith. Jesus is the truth that sets people free, not our clever arguments.
Think about Jesus’ invitation to all of us. Is it not compelling in such wearisome times?
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt.11:28-30 MSG)
I will talk about one practical method of engaging in this conversation next time.