There are many important statements to be made, and there are many ways in which to say them. There are effective ways, and there are ineffective ways. Often, the correct thing stated in the incorrect manner greatly reduces its effectiveness.
It is such with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
No, I’m not saying that God can’t work through people who aren’t effective communicators. I’m not saying God doesn’t have the power to reach people no matter the circumstances, and I’m not saying there’s one way to correctly preach the Gospel.
I am saying that when we ignore God’s command to preach the Gospel with love, our communicative effectiveness quickly diminishes. When we fail to communicate the most important message in the history of time in a loving manner, we put it in a chokehold.
Today, I experienced this firsthand. I was on my way through the plaza at CSU when I saw one of the infamous plaza preachers engaging in an intense back-and-forth with a group of students. I had time, so I stopped to listen. After hearing his cold, harsh words, I was upset. I wasn’t upset because he was saying untrue statements. I was upset because he was failing to represent Jesus Christ with the very characteristic essential to Jesus – His love. He lashed out at the students standing there, yelling statements that were, in fact, true.
That’s why it hurt. He was preaching truth. He was quoting the Bible. He was vocalizing scriptural principles. His voice was loud. His passion was evident. But he was missing the entire point. He failed to follow the greatest commandment. His words were rendered effectively useless because they were spoken with no sign of love. He was creating argument and vividly visible anger, not life change and hope.
Many times, I’ve seen these preachers misrepresenting Jesus and I’ve stood idly by. Many times, I’ve put my headphones in and pretended to be unaware. After witnessing a lack of love cause arguments with students who have absolutely no grip on the Gospel, I felt the Lord giving me the extra nudge. I knew I needed to say something. I wasn’t even sure what I would say, but I asked the man if I could add something, as a fellow believer.
I presented the Gospel in the simplest possible way I knew. I told the people standing there that I love Jesus because he first loved me. I’ve screwed up many times, but He loved me yesterday, loves me today, and will love me tomorrow no matter what I’ve done. I’m saved solely through my belief in Him. I told them that if they’d like to have a conversation with me about faith, I’d be absolutely willing to get lunch with them.
They listened. Nobody argued. Nobody lashed back at me while I spoke. Nobody looked at me with any type of visible anger. I thanked them for their time and drifted back into the crowd. While the preacher rambled on about how the low volume of my voice erased the credibility of my words, I approached multiple students who had been arguing with the preacher. I introduced myself and talked with them. I’ll hopefully be getting lunch with a few of them soon.
That is the power of the Gospel spoken in love. I am not saying these things to build myself up. I do often struggle with pride, but there is no pride to be had about something you didn’t do with your own power. I essentially made the same statements as the yelling man; I just stated them from a place of compassion. Since the Gospel is love, the Gospel spoke for itself.
In 1st Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul said “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
If you’re willing to love people, God will honor that. If you have compassion, you have a platform to preach the Good News. Everyone is hungry for the Gospel, whether they realize it or not, and everyone is hungry for love. If the Gospel is spoken in love, people will listen – no matter what prior unbelief they profess. Love is the language of revival.
Preach the Gospel loudly and harshly and you will win arguments.
Preach the Gospel softly and lovingly and you will win souls.
Without love, nothing.