Imagine a friend declares (either with sincerity or a touch of pride): ‘I’ve done too many wrong things ever to be a Christian’. How might you respond?
The themes of sin, grace and forgiveness are beautifully embodied in many episodes of Jesus’ life. Luke 7:36-50 (a passage about Jesus forgiving the sins of questionable woman), for example, could provide the basis for the following reply:
Well, you are exactly the sort of person Christ was interested in. He was at the home of a religious leader (Pharisee) one day when a prostitute came looking for him. She was so overwhelmed she burst out crying. Everyone there wanted to condemn the woman and thought Jesus should do the same. Instead, Jesus condemned his self-righteous host and turned to the women and said ‘Your sins are forgiven’. He forgave her and she was a changed woman because of it. Christ didn’t come for the ‘good’ people. He came to restore and forgive those willing to admit they were anything but good. Have you ever looked into Jesus’ life?
This reply would take less than a minute to offer. It addresses the questioner’s comment and paints a picture of Christ that is biblical and, hopefully, memorable. The reply doesn’t contain the whole gospel – from Jesus’ birth to his exaltation. It doesn’t share all the details of Luke 7:36-50 – it is not meant to be a sermon, just a retelling of something Jesus said and did. In a way, it is similar to what you might do when roughly recounting a scene from one of your favourite movies. Importantly – and I believe one of the keys to successful conversation (about anything) – the response tails off with another question: ‘Have you ever looked into Jesus’ life?’. This provides people with the opportunity to continue the discussion if they wish. It also keeps the conversation focused on the substance of our faith, Jesus.
This ‘Gospel Bite’ comes from John Dickson’s book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan, 2010), 204.