Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Your Breath Stinks!
It's always an awkward moment, isn't it? You are talking to someone and quickly realize that the unpleasant odor is coming from their breath. What do you do? Do you say something? Who wants to do that? But if you don't their breath will continue to haunt countless others as the day goes on. Would they want you to tell them? Would they be offended? So many uncertainties!
Let's just say that you decide to tell them. How do you do it? I will put forth that you have at least two options. Option number one is to loudly say, for everyone around you to hear, "Dude, your mouth smells like an open sepulchre! What's wrong with you - don't you ever brush your teeth?" Well, you got the job done, you told them that their breath stinks.
Option two is you can gently offer them a mint and say, "I don't mean to be rude, but I really think you could use this." Again, you will have accomplished your mission of telling them that their breath stinks.
I have been discussing the issue of evangelism a bit here lately. There have been some things brewing in me that I am ready to now share. This is an aspect of that. I use the illustration of bad breath to show what I have been trying to get at so far in my thoughts. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love. When it comes to evangelism, we tend to do one or the other.
Evangelism should involve both - truth and love. Now, we can tell ourselves that in situation one above, we said what we said out of love. Really? That sounded more like truth (albeit a bit over the top) than it did love. In what way did scene one demonstrate love to the one with the offensive breath? Odds are, they will have felt humiliated, but at least their breath will be better. But isn't there a way to do both? To stop the offensive odor AND do so in a way that shows love and respect to the source of the problem?
Now, a third option with the bad breath is to casually offer them a mint, without a hint that they need one. Chances are, they will turn it down and now nothing good has come as a result. This can often happen with "friendship evangelism." We love on people, and when we do casually mention Jesus or invite them to church, they say, "No thanks."
With option one, we can scold people about their sins and jump down their throats, applauding ourselves for our faithfulness to God. But, as with scene one, the mint may be refused, not because the person doesn't think they need it, but because of the rudeness of the one offering the mint. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that everyone who rejects the Gospel does so because of the Gospel. It can sometimes be a rejection of the rude manner in which the truth was offered.
The best option is scene two. To speak the truth in love. To talk to someone about their sin and their need for the Savior, but to do so demonstrating the greatest amount of love, respect, compassion, and dignity as possible.