Second-century apologist were certainly leaders of a resistance, led by men such as Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Ignatius of Antioch. In fact, Tertullian goes on to say in his, Demurrer Against the Heretics, “the communication of peace, the title of brotherhood, and the bond of hospitality prove [the church’s] unity: privileges which no other principle governs except the one tradition of the same sacrament,” and that any who speak against this movement, “broadcast the poisons of their doctrine.” Certainly it is this type of boldness that would enhance the quickening of the Christian faith, while simultaneously resulting in the death of many of these men.
Christianity is not finding the same hesitations in the modern context than it found in the second-century. Certainly there are few and far between who believe Christians are feasting on human flesh and blood when they gather, or that their language of “brotherhood” hosts the weight of incest and sexual orgies. Apologist today are not combating against the same issue our early faith fathers were. At the same time, it is just as important today than it was in the second-century, to live as an apologist in word and action. A good apologist adapts to the movement of their society, and courageously advances the Gospel message using familiar language and tactics to those they are attempting to reach. For Justin Martyr, he employed Greek mythology, analogues, and illustrations to help his audience grasp the message; we must identify the language of our culture and use that to employ the Gospel message to our audience.
Talking About vs. Talking Like Jesus
When it comes to talking about Jesus, talking like Jesus is critical to one’s success. It amazes me how many conversations I have with people who, "just can't understand why so-and-so wasn't interested in hearing what they had to say." My simple question when I hear this, "Were you interested in what they had to say?"
One does not need to memorize evangelical formulas or answers to share Jesus, they need to be willing to care about people. Dale Carnegie writes about this in his book: How to Win Friends and Influence People; although written to secular circumstances, Carnegie hits the nail on the head when it comes to sharing the Christian faith. Here are Dale Carnegie's nine guidelines for relating better to people. These guidelines pave the way for sharing the Gospel more fruitfully:
Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Become genuinely interested in other people.
Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.
Although groundbreaking, Carnegie is not as original as one might think. Long before Carnegie shared his insight, Solomon observed, "When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone's way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.” Solomon went even further; beyond mere business sense, he gave instruction for conveying grace to others. "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Paul would repeat this phrase to the Romans. When it comes to talking about Jesus, talking like Jesus is critical to your success.
Jesus and the Sinful Woman
The was a publicly sinful woman, most likely selling her body to survive and feed her children. The was standing along the border with the others, waiting for the religious leader and the supposed Messiah to finish their meal so they could swarm in to pick the remains from their leftovers. She was an outcast, but rumors were spreading that this man named Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Son of God. Some were saying he was healing and teaching all over the country, forgiving sins as he went along. She gripped the jar of perfume a little tighter in her hand. If ever there was a chance to encounter the Messiah, now was the time. With her eyes burning with forming tears, and within an explosion of emotion, the sinful woman breaks her rank and runs towards Jesus.
As this sinful woman falls at the feet of Jesus notice he does not pull away from her; he does not scold her or make her feel foolish, instead he does something that shocks Simon. Instead he uses her as an example of someone who has received his love and forgiveness. Ignoring the snares and questioning of the other leaders at the table, he looks compassionately to her and sends her away in peace. When Simon looked at this woman he saw a prostitute; when Jesus looked at this woman he saw her. Jesus saw her sordid past, her humble present, and her glorious future. This is how we are to share the love of Jesus with the outcasts of our world. Timothy Keller in his book, Making Sense of God, explains how religious leaders of Jesus’ day refused to eat and be associated with sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes, for fear of becoming contaminated by them. Jesus’ style turned the social dominance completely on its head. “He did not fear that they would contaminate him;” Keller explains, “he expected that his wholesome love would infect and change them, and again and again this is what happened.” I heard it said once that we should be loving the hell out of people. Although this can be crass, this is how Jesus did evangelism; he found the balance between grace and truth and loved people unconditionally.
Karl Barth, in his book Evangelical Theology, spends an entire portion on hope. It is the message of hope that is going to drive into people’s hearts and change them. “The God whom we speak is no god imagined or devised by men,” but a God whose love and mercy is unconditional. The preincarnate, incarnate, and resurrected nature of Jesus brings about the glory of God the Creator and this provides an everlasting hope for humankind. This is a simplistic, yet powerful reminder of the majesty of God from a deep, thoughtful theologian. Barth goes on to state, “The mystery of the special threat to theology is precisely its special hope.” This is a powerful message being studied and proclaimed, therefore powerful forces are working against it. Through this book, Barth does a fine job at illuminating those dark threats and pointing the theologian back to the message of hope found in the message.
There is a deep embedded truth that is simple to find in all humans. There is a desire to do what is right, an aspiration to love, and a significant concern for others. These can not be scientifically explained, but when fully embraced have the power to change the world. Following God is a complicated lifestyle, there is no doubt about that. However, God communicates through relationship; that is why Jesus was such a crucial element in God’s plan for humanity. Evangelism driven by relationship has a way of opening the minds and hearts of the most serious seekers of God. God pulls his creation closer by guiding them through a loving relationship with his followers. Defending the faith of Jesus has transcended heated debates and scientific evidence. The newest method of evangelism is found in a loving relationship with Jesus.