by Steven Chan
If you have been a member of a non-Christian chat groups in whatsapp, you may have come across a request by someone in the group (usually the administrator) that participants in the group refrain from discussing matters pertaining to “race, religion or politics” in the chat group. Such matters are often regarded as “sensitive” and may upset the peace and harmony among participants in the chat group. So it is with how some conduct their relationships with their friends.
But what does the Bible say about approaching friends on the subject of “religion”? In all our dealings with the world, we must be guided by our Lord said in Matt 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
It would not be wise to expressly go against the request of the administrator of the chat group and start posting matters on “race, religion and politics” just because we believe that it is important for them to discuss these matters. The Bible says:-
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… A time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecc 3:1,7b).
Whilst it is true that we must “preach the word and to be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), we must be wise to look for “opened doors” to share the gospel:
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord” (2 Cor 2:12) “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Cor 16:8-9).
Although the passage in Rev 3:20 refers to Jesus knocking on the doors of believers, the principle of “knocking the door of the heart” is nonetheless applicable to our approach to sharing the gospel with non-believers: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
We must “knock” such that our friends will open the door of their hearts but we are not to “knock down their doors” and bash our way into their hearts! If they are not willing to open the door of their hearts in spite of our knocking, then they are not “opened” to hear the gospel – trying to shove it down their throats will only cause them to reject the gospel even more. God’s Word says in 2 Tim 2:24-26: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
The key lies in whether we are ‘knocking’ and if so, how are we “knocking” at the doors of their hearts such that they will be willing to open? The guiding principles to our knocking are:
- “must not quarrel” (being louder doesn’t win acceptance),
- “be gentle” (do not contemptuously ride roughshod over the beliefs of others),
- “able to teach” (in other words, able to reason logically as Paul did – Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 24:25; 26:25: I “speak the words of truth and reason”),
- “patient” (not demanding immediate positive response) and
- “in humility correcting those who differ” (do not exhibit pride or arrogance or holier than thou attitude) .
But we must “ask and seek” before we can “knock” (Matt 7:7-8).
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Someone was “seeking the lost” when we were first approached for a personal bible study or to attend a meeting of the church. We may have been reluctant or hesitant initially but because the approach was not “repulsive”, we relented and were persuaded to attend – and were blessed to hear, understand and accept the gift of God – the good news being proclaimed.
In John 4:28-30, the Bible tells us about what the woman of Samaria excitedly told the people after her conversation with Jesus:
“The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.”
The people in Samaria came to hear Christ because of what the woman said of Him: “He told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” She told the people that He had revealed all her past deeds to her – that was an extraordinary feat as He had no prior association with her or with the people in Samaria. How could He have known about her – especially when her illicit relationships were unlikely to be common knowledge even to the people in her community? One could tell that she must have been amazed by what Jesus said, and she passed that on to the people in Samaria.
On another occasion in Mark 5:19, Jesus told the demon-possessed man who had been healed by Him: “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” That’s what the apostle Paul did in Jerusalem in Acts 22:1-16 and also before King Agrippa (Acts 26:12-20). He told them what great things the Lord had done for him and the compassion shown to him. We ought to do the same with our friends: tell them what great things the Lord has done for us and His love and mercy extended to us. If one feels that the Lord has done nothing for us then it would not be possible to interest others in the gospel of Christ.
Brethren, we must not fail to “seek, ask” our friends and “knock” gently on the doors of their hearts so that they may be willing to open their hearts to hear the gospel of Christ which will give them blessings in this life, and eternal life in heaven. We will do well to remember the words of this hymn:
“My friend, I stand in the judgment now, and feel that you’re to blame somehow.
On earth, I walked with you day by day, and never did you point the way.
You knew the Lord in truth and glory, but never did you tell me the story.
My knowledge then was very dim, you could have led the way to Him.
Though we lived together on the earth, you never told me of the second birth,
And now I stand here, condemned, because you failed to mention Him.
You taught me many things, that’s true; I called you “friend” and trusted you,
But now I learn, when it’s too late — you could have saved me from this fate.
We walked and talked by dawn and night, and yet, you showed me not His light.
You let me live and love and die, you knew I’d never live on high.
Yes, I called you “friend” in life, and trusted you through joy and strife,
And yet on coming to the end — I cannot call you now “my friend”.”
(the poem is believed to have been composed by a DJ Higgins)
Let’s continually “seek” out our friends and “ask” gently and persuasively that they be willing to be opened to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ which will bring great blessings in their lives, and eventually inherit eternal life in heaven after this life on earth is over.