Continuing the theme of evangelism, I would think that in addition to refining and focusing our message (on the wonder and significance of Christ to LIFE), there probably needs to be major shift in our mindset, our perspective on the “lost.” Even the term “lost” can be divisive, as it is often seen as being symptomatic of the “US v. THEM” perspective that has so profoundly shaped evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity. I’d like to think that as we are graced to walk out a passionate, loving relationship with Christ, a combative (US v THEM) attitude would be hard to maintain. Of course, if we’re a motley crew of rabid ideologues, intent on changing legislation, the combative attitude is really fuel for our fire.
No, I think we need to accept two simple ideas: the divine origin of all humanity and the acceptance/rejection of self-determination. In other words, every human being a child of God in that we are all made in the image of God, who loves US; and every human being has either made a choice to live surrendered to the love and wisdom of this God or they are determining their life’s direction for themselves. The first idea levels the playing field (a compassionate mindset) and establishes a commonality amongst people (an empathetic mindset). The second idea draws a very distinct line (a holiness mindset) between people that is based not on their qualities but their response to the grace of God.
As I’ve been reading Francis Schaeffer’s biography, I’ve been impressed with his ability to maintain a tension between relating to people as both fellow man and lost soul at the same time. Dr. Schaeffer said in an interview, “On the other hand, if in your empathy and love – because now, I think, that’s really the key, that you ought to approach every individual and lovingly try to find out where he or she is – if in your empathy you find out that he or she is a person who still believes in truth (which is not the mark of our age, but there are still people who live there) and they’re really troubled, let us say about historic evidences, the physical resurrection, then I think you ought to talk to them on that level.” This not only reveals a strategy – which we should discuss – but a mindset: one that respects the condition of your counterpart and refuses to belittle or gloss over it.
As God’s creation, we’re all alike. As God’s adoptive sons, we’re quite different than those living outside of that covenant. We need to uphold both of these realities (mindsets) as we share our faith lest we fall into the error of stereotypical condescension on the one hand, or lukewarm conformity on the other.