Controlled by love, seasoned with grace
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
It is an age-old feeling to be discouraged when sharing the gospel and this even prevents us from doing anything. In fact, our fear of being discouraged means we can avoid sharing the gospel and praying for gospel conversations altogether. We ought to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have, and our speech always ought to be seasoned with grace so that we know how to answer anyone. In other words, our understanding of the gospel and of God must be so all-encompassing that every conversation is flavored with explicit and implicit gospel seasoning. Augustine in one of his little handbooks, ‘Instructing Beginners in the Faith,’ writes a little about how not to be discouraged and how to have a cheerful disposition when making disciples. The Christian faith and our human disposition aren’t much different from the 5th century.
But we ought to be encouraged: first because we have excellent examples throughout history. The apostle Paul didn’t shy away from his confession. He believed in the gospel and made himself all things to all people to share it. And there are many more unnamed and (forgotten by the world) Christians, from pastors to children, who carried the gospel slowly and decidedly throughout the whole world. There have been Christians that lived in and never traveled outside their city that faithfully transmitted the gospel to the next generation. God used each of them to carry the gospel throughout the ages, and he has called each of us to be faithful—even if we almost never leave our city limits! In fact, to be stationary is almost more advantageous than to go further afield, though God has certainly called some to do so. This is because when we get distracted by things further afield, it is very easy for us to neglect our local responsibilities.
But we can also be encouraged because of who Jesus Christ is and what he did. Jesus Christ emptied himself, endured death on a cross and died: out of love. Paul followed the example of Christ: because the grace of God in Christ satisfied him more than anything else the world had to offer. He says, ‘For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.’ Christ’s love controlled Paul, and this encourages us to find the love of Christ similarly all controlling. This isn’t simply in a mushy-gushy sort of flat out emotional sort of way love. Instead, the love of Christ was a sacrificial, divine, perfect, God-glorifying love that showed compassion to the lost and hurting. In Christ’s love, we live for not ourselves but for Christ. In Christ’s love we grow into fulfilling our created and redeemed purposes.
And we can also be encouraged because we are not alone. We can easily become ashamed of making disciples because those whom we share the gospel with are people we love, and we know that the nature of the message sometimes means it divides families. But in Christ, we are not alone. We are a part of the body of Christ that works together as a family. Within the church the familial bond is strong (and this ought to be cultivated) and provides healthy avenues for relationships that build us up. This is displayed in the sweet fellowship we can have with believers we meet traveling across the world: we are all a part of one body.
So may we be encouraged to season our lives and words with the gospel and may we be prepared to provide an explanation of the hope that we have in Christ.