“Those who oppose [the Lord’s servant] he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
“Your “god” is a bunch of bunk! He’s just your imaginary friend in the sky!”
“Well, we’ll see who’s right when you are burning in hell buddy – God hates wicked, evil people like you!”
I sat at the table in shock as I listened to this ugly exchange. It began when I contacted a man who was an atheist because I needed to do several interviews for my apologetics course in seminary. We were sitting at a sidewalk table of a coffee shop. I had a series of questions to ask him about life and God and as he answered them, a couple from a nearby table listened. As they got up to leave, the woman stepped over and asked about our discussion. I explained about my class and that Rob was kind enough to help me with this assignment. Then her husband stepped in and began to berate Rob for his lack of belief. It quickly escalated to the exchange you just read.
As they walked away – well the man stormed off – I apologized to Rob and told him we could discontinue our interview if he preferred. He laughed and said he enjoyed the argument, he loved to get Christians flustered and angry. Then he asked me, “Why haven’t you given me a piece of your mind about my disbelief or try to convince me to believe in your God?” I told him, “I’m not going to attack you, but I have been sharing my faith all along.” He looked at me with a puzzled expression that began to soften as he said, “You really have, haven’t you? You’ve been kind and respectful as we’ve talked, you’ve shared pieces of your testimony and your faith without shouting or pointing a finger at me. You actually unnerve me more than that other guy did.”
In the verse just prior to our key verse, Paul says that “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful,” (2 Timothy 2:24). In these verses Paul is saying that as believers, our character should be the same as Jesus: kind, gentle, helpful and sympathetic. Why? Because they have been taken captive by the devil. They have been deceived, let astray, fooled, and fed lies to the point that they can’t recognize the truth of God’s existence and His love. They are under the influence of satan, and they deserve our pity rather than our hate.
If you look in the gospel accounts, Jesus saved His harshest words for the religious crowd who rejected the lost, the poor, the lonely and the wounded – and Him. They were the self-righteous scholars who diligently studied the Scriptures, but missed the whole point of God’s plan. They shut out the very ones God loved, but Jesus welcomed them and loved them. It’s no wonder He was called “a friend of sinners,” and I believe He bore that title with delight rather than shame. I know I would never have been accepted by the religious elite, but Jesus accepts me just as I am.
If you are a Christian, you have a call to be “salt and light” in the world. Salt to preserve the image of God in your fellow man and light to lead the way to the cross and redemption. Finger-pointing, harsh words and belittling attitudes will never win anyone to Christ. But a kind and gentle spirit will.
If you are not a Christian, let me assure you that Jesus does not look at you with hatred or disgust; He does not see you as His enemy – He died so that you could be His friend for eternity. He loves you with an everlasting love that will never turn you away. Please come and see for yourself that He is a gentle King and a kind Savior.