[Notes: (1) pretend this is in small font. Every time I small-font something, New Blogger undoes it; (2) though this is a standalone post, I plan to refer back to it in a future review of a book that... that I just... that is so, so utterly... well, I'll tell you later, Lord willing. Now to the post.]
Let's say I've never met you in my life. For most of you, that will be true. There is a whole lot I don't know about you, things important for a real genuine relationship. I probably don't know your temperament, your tastes in books or movies or food, how you handle pressure, what you think is funny, what you think about politics and culture. Your favorite food, your most painful memory, your proudest achievement, your greatest shame and regret. There's a lot I don't know.
So if I want to know you, I'll have to meet you, hang with you, watch you, ask some questions, listen to you, and I'll have to try to keep an open mind through it all.
This is just Human Relations 101, and it's also "Golden Rule" 101.
However, does that mean that you and I are complete blank slates to each other? Hardly. Even though I've never met you, there's a lot I already know about you.
Let's focus on what I already know about a non-Christian, the moment I meet him, before he opens his mouth. (This list, if exhaustive, could fill several long posts, and I know commenters will add items I should have thought of; but here we go.)
If you are not a Christian, I know a number of things. I know them both before you utter one syllable, and in spite of anything you may say:
- I know that you were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and still bear that image (Genesis 9:6), though sin has warped that likeness (Genesis 5:1, 3; cf. Ephesians 4:24), and though you try hard to efface it (Romans 1:18-32).
- I know that everything you will tell me will come from a heart that is (A) self-deceived, and (B) definitionally unaware of that self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9).
- I know that you are at war with God, and hate Him (Romans 8:7).
- I know that you are under the wrath of God (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:3).
- I know that you are dead to God (Ephesians 2:1).
- I know that it is natural to you to resist the truth of God, and to warp truths about God into forms that do not threaten your war against God (Romans 1:18).
- I know that your very ability to see and understand the truths of God is so mangled by sin that you could effectively be said to be blind to them (Psalm 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:17-19).
- I know that you are blinded to the beauty and truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
- I know that what you most need from me is to be loved (Luke 6:26-27).
- I know that the specific expression of love you most need from me is not for me to affirm nor enable your self-destructive errors, nor for me to tell you about myself (2 Corinthians 4:5a).
- I know that the specific expression of love you most need from me is that I tell you the good news about Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5b), and that if you do not hear that good news, you have no hope of being saved from God's wrath (Romans 10:8-17).
- I know that Jesus Christ came to save people exactly like you (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).
- I know that if you believe the Gospel and come to Jesus Christ the saving Lord, in repentant faith — and only then — you surely will be saved (Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:35, 37, 40; Acts 16:31; 17:30).
- I know that if you do not come to this saving faith, you have no hope whatever (John 3:36).
- I know that you must do this, and that you can only do this if God does a gracious, miraculous, life-giving work within you (Matthew 11:25; John 3:3; 5:25-26; 6:37, 44-45, 65; 2 Corinthians 4:5-6; Ephesians 2:1-10).
If I enter a relationship with an unbeliever and do not keep those things in mind, two disastrous consequences absolutely and certainly will follow:
- I will be led off into the wrong path; and
- I will be, at best, absolutely useless to you and, at worst, positively harmful to you.
- "But that won't help dialogue!"
- "But that just pre-judges people!"
- "But times have changed, we can't relate to people like that!"
- "But people will view us as arrogant and narrow!"
- "But that won't make outsiders feel valued and respected and welcomed and liked!"
The reality is that there is no greater arrogance than rejecting the word of God (Psalm 119:21).
Yet in a strange twist, by thus seeking not to be a friend of the world, the faithful disciple who approaches the world with God's wisdom is the best friend who worldlings will ever have.
Because he, and he alone, can tell them how to get saved from the doom towards which the world is hurtling (Acts 2:40; Galatians 1:4).