Making Friends and Facing Despisers

“Making Friends, Facing Despisers For the Gospel”  Mt. 5:10-12; 10:5-20   10-18-15

We have been talking about how to be missionaries to our area.  It involves doing and talking.  America is turning into the fourth largest mission field in the world- if you count the number of people who do not attend or take part in Christian worship.

Christianity is a religion of love and truth; grace and holiness.  We do not win people to Christ by huddling together to learn the truth and somehow inviting them in.  People are drawn to Christ as we reach out to them in love.  It is the love of Christ that compels us to tell others about Him, and it is the love of Christ that we want to tell.  My brother, who is a recently retired professor has this quote from J. C. Maxwell at the end of each email, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much  you care.”      Seventy percent of people claiming Christ as Lord and Savior are there because someone they know invited them to come and worship, come and see. So Andrew invited his brother Peter.  Philip found his friend Nathanael and told him to “come and see.”  Lois and Eunice taught their son and grandson Timothy.       When Jesus came he got a reputation of going to where the hurting people were.  He visited the sick.  I could imagine Jesus visiting the flood areas at Whitehall and Pine Glenn.  I think he would have been folding and sorting clothes in the gym last week if he was in Chapin.  He went to the stinky places- the unclean and dangerous places- like leper colonies.  He went to see a demoniac in chains in the graveyard- someone everyone else avoided.  He did not stay in the synagogues or the Temple.        Jesus believed in what is normally called friendship evangelism.  He made friends and showed them love.  He had a friend in Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha.  When Lazarus died Jesus wept.  Everyone said, “See how he loved him.”  But Jesus did not just make friends with the 12 disciples and Lazarus.  He also had a huge reputation for eating and drinking with sinners.  The Pharisees didn’t want any of the sinners’ sins to rub off on them.  But Jesus went into the homes of both the Pharisees who didn’t believe in him and were skeptical and also the tax collectors.  He told Zaccheus- “come down- for I’m going to your house today.”  I remember in my second church we had a retired pro baseball player- a great athlete.  He loved to play golf in his retirement.  I preached a sermon similar to this and he said, “Ben, I understand what you are saying, but I don’t want to listen to those sketchy stories and bad language of my friends who don’t hold to the same morals and beliefs that I do.”  There is a balance.  Paul says that bad company corrupts good character.  A wise person said that it was easier to pull someone down that pull someone up.  Yet, if we are more scared of corruption than we are of helping people with good news- no one will hear.  Do not let fear keep you from loving someone else.        Jesus sent out the twelve disciples.  He didn’t keep them around him all the time.  He knew it was important to get the word out.  Today people can just like something on Facebook, or send an email or text or call someone on the phone.  But what he wanted them to do was to go and make friends.  Go and stay in someone’s house.  If no one welcomes you- shake the dust off your feet and go somewhere else.  Let someone invite you in and get to know them.  Then tell them the good news.        Go make friends.  Love people.  Love your neighbor.  Help people.  Find some grumpy people, some wandering people, some selfish people and share the good news of hope.  Recognize though, that you are at times grumpy and selfish.  Jesus told his disciples to help people and then go stay with them and tell them the good news.

Jesus also gave them some bad news- not everybody likes or responds to the good news.  Not only that but they can be mean to the messengers.  I might want to say to Jesus, “Don’t scare them like that!  They’ll shrink back.  They will be too nervous to share their faith.”  Jesus wanted them to know the whole truth. Jesus told them clearly- “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”  Sheep are innocent.  They have no defensive weapons- their teeth are grinders no canines.  They have hooves not claws.  He said people will hand you over to be flogged for sharing the faith.  But then he says to not be afraid of them for He is with you and will give you by the Spirit the right words to say.   The Huguenots came to America and South Carolina to practice and share their faith freely for many were killed by the French government.  The first Presbyterian Church in America was founded in South Carolina by the Huguenots in Port Royal.  The Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to practice their faith freely.  They all came to escape persecution.  In some ways the Scotch Irish also came to escape tough times.  Today, in Saudi Arabia you can have life in prison for sharing your faith if you are a Christian.  Eighteen Christians in Iran were sentenced from one to ten years in prison.  One American pastor who was working with orphans in Iran was arrested merely for being “openly Christian.”  For us in South Carolina to be a strong Christian and take your faith seriously some may not like that.  But we are blessed in that most people still respect Jesus and the faith.  When asked why you don’t share your faith- nine percent said they were too busy; 28% said they lacked information; 12% said their lives were not matching the faith they professed, but 51% were afraid of what people may think.  The apostles that Jesus sent out (as recorded in Matthew 10) all gave themselves to share their faith.  I believe they had great courage because they did not want to look Jesus in the face if they were embarrassed that they knew Him.     Wayne Smith was a missionary to Brazil who moved to Atlanta.  He read that a man there was supposedly the “king of pornographers.”  Wayne prayed and then went to see him.  “I read that you are the king of pornographers” he said.  “Well, if you have that kind of ability, then you are working for the wrong person.  I can imagine what your life could be if God got a hold of it.”  The man was so astonished that he ended up going to church and a Billy Graham Crusade. (Leighton Ford in “Good News is for Sharing”).

What we want to do is build bridges from one side to the other side.  Bridges of love that communicate the love of God.  Rarely will anyone cross over from one side to the other without a bridge.  Love is the bridge to another person.  Helping them, knowing them, caring for them is how people will begin to listen.       People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Show it this week.  Volunteer to help someone in Christ’s name- and don’t be afraid to say you are doing it for Him.