People living in the United States in the 21st century are pampered beyond imagination. Our consumer, market-driven economy is driven by the quest to find out what makes people happy so they’ll part with their money and buy XYZ company’s products. Every day Americans are bombarded with countless marketing messages. Because of this people are used to being placated and given exactly what they want. People are used to being told that their needs, their beliefs, their desires and their wishes are supreme.
When an authentic disciple enters the picture, the non-believer encounters someone who loves them but doesn’t exist to make them happy. They encounter, maybe for the first time in their life, someone not thoroughly marked by the dominant culture. They encounter someone who is willing to tell them the truth because they see the culture for what it really is. A disciple doesn’t reactively live, drive, dress, vacation, talk, and eat just like the actors on the highest Nielson rated sitcom or the neighbors at the end of the cul de sac. They answer to someone beyond themselves, and that intrigues people immensely.
Becoming a disciple doesn’t guarantee skeptics around you will eventually become disciples themselves, but it does guarantee they will be forced to grapple with Jesus and his claims.
Just recently I was reminded of this while teaching in our weekend worship services. We were studying that horrible story in 1 Samuel 15 where God tells Saul to do something that we find incomprehensible today. In verse three of that chapter God told Saul,
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
While I was preaching I kept thinking, “This is it. This is going to be the sermon when some nut jumps out of his seat and hurls a large coffee at me and storms out.”
Fortunately that didn’t happen.
But after the message I braced for the worst in the hallway. Surprisingly it never came. In fact, just the opposite happened. I was shocked. Spiritual inquirers I had been building bridges with for over a year came up to me and complimented me like I was Billy Graham. At first I was tempted to pat myself on the back and shout, “You da man, Brian! You da man!” But I knew it had nothing to do with my meager teaching skills.
Non-believers I encounter aren’t grabbed by easy, make-me-comfortable messages. What spiritual inquirers want is to hear a counter-cultural word from God, even if they vehemently disagree with it.
And messages like that only come from the mouth of a disciple.
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