My friend won’t talk about it. What do I do?

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mind from Pastor David Staff

Growing up in southeastern Wisconsin – in the harbor city of Kenosha – meant living at 1933-19th Avenue.  Putting $150.00 down and agreeing to a $50.00 monthly payment, my dad had the house built in a new subdivision, right across the street from the new Cordelia Harvey Elementary School.

Yep.  You read it right…$50.00 per month (1961).

Next door lived Betty and Jerry Zier, in their new house with dark brown siding.  They were great neighbors for many years.  But Jerry had a rule which he both communicated and maintained with his neighbors.  Early on he said to my father, “We will get along famously if we do NOT talk about two things: politics, and religion.”  There was an insistent tone in Jerry’s voice.  Of course, my dad agreed.

Our family – the Staffs – went every Sunday to a Bible teaching church 9 miles north in Racine, Wisconsin.  Mom was the organist. Dad ran the Christian Service Brigade club for boys. Calvary Memorial was known for its commitment to the gospel, and the Bible. That meant sermons often urged us CMC-ers to love our neighbors and to share the gospel with them. That also meant my dad often felt the angst of being hand-cuffed when it came to sharing with Jerry. He wanted to hear none of it…and he didn’t.  At least not from my dad.

Living and working in a spiritually diverse world, we who follow Jesus likely face the same conundrum.  We know people whom we love who have slammed shut and bolted the doorway into their heart, spiritually.  On the one hand, you can hardly blame them. Our world is full of rancorous, embittering arguments.  Politically as a nation, we are as divided and uncooperative perhaps as never before.  Spiritually, fewer and fewer are believing that one can find absolute truth in any religion.  For most, “it’s all good,” but “keep it to yourself. Our friendship will thrive if you don’t bring God or religion or faith up.”

Thus, while we obediently feel the call of Scripture to help our unbelieving friend(s) become a disciple of Jesus, we also have no relational permission to do so.
So what are we to do?  Does God’s Word offer any direction?

Of course it does!  We’re not the first disciple-makers who’ve faced friends and acquaintances with “Do Not Enter” signs on their foreheads!

First, Scripture urges us to begin with serious praying.  Few were rejected by kinsmen as consistently and forcefully as Paul, the former Pharisee and then Jesus’ apostle.  Reading his story, you’d think he’d say, “Forget them!”  Nevertheless, he wrote to the Romans, “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved” (Romans 10:1, NLT).  Paul understood that for the spiritually-entrenched-and seemingly-unpliable, one had to start with prayer.  With these, it is clear that only God can penetrate the thick wall of a hardened heart.

Second, Scripture urges us to be hopeful!  This too from Paul, who said, “—I am the worst of them all (i.e., all sinners).  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst of sinners.  Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16, NLT).  No one you know was more resistant to Jesus the Messiah than Saul of Tarsus.  Anyone you know can be redeemed by the patience of the Savior.

Third, Scripture urges that we keep loving and staying relationally close!  The gospel writer Mark reminds us of Jesus’ perspective when criticized for hanging with the crowd of dishonest compromisers and lawbreakers.  “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.  I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17).   My mother and dad had Betty and Jerry over often, or they went next door, just to play cards and have fun.  They wanted to stay close with friendship-love even as they begged God to open the doors of closed hearts.  Proximity and “agape” love set the stage for when the Holy Spirit undeniably focuses for them, inside, their need.  When God calls them to salvation, you and I can serve as mid-wives of new birth.

Finally, Scripture urges we personally prepare to be clear with the gospel.  May I ask you, are you ready?  If your previously closed-up friend suddenly surprised you with, “Can you help me?  I think I need God,” what would you say?  How would you introduce them to trusting in Jesus for salvation?   This is why, again, Paul wrote to the disciple-makers in Colossae, “Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about His mysterious plan concerning Christ.  That is why I am here in chains.  Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should” (Colossians 4:3-4, NLT).

But then he adds, “Likewise, [you!] live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone” (4:5-6, NLT).

No doubt you’ve heard the gospel many times.  But how often have you said it.  There’s a difference.  It’s one thing to hear it; it’s another to be able to say it clearly and simply.  Why not take an evening dinner hour with your spouse (and your kids or grandkids) and practice together verbally sharing the gospel clearly?  You could get each other ready to obey Colossians 4:5-6!

Pray. Hope!  Love!!  Prepare!!!

Let’s be ready when God opens up a previously locked-up heart.
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