When I first met Jesus and discovered the joy that comes with knowing him, I wanted to proclaim his Good News to everyone. Unfortunately, I did not yet understand or know how to evangelize to everyone. I found that while I was good at reigniting the fire of Christ’s love within those who were already Christian, I was terrible at evangelizing the religiously unaffiliated.
Those who told me they did not believe in God, or did not believe in a caring God, seemed to respond to my sharing of the Gospel as if they had been assaulted. Often, these non-religious friends would stop talking with me, unfriend me on Facebook, or roll their eyes and say, “Please, your sky-fairy isn’t real. You’re too smart to believe that.” While reactions such as these offended and saddened me, they also got me praying, “Dear God, what am I doing wrong? How is it that by sharing your joy I am leading others away from you?”
It was after this prayer that the Holy Spirit led me to two scriptures. The first is Luke24:13-35 and the second is Acts 8:26-40. Both these scripture passages tell of someone unsuccessfully understanding Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Both these passages reveal that it is only after someone spends time telling and explaining the story of Jesus from the beginning, that non-Christians will come to understand the Good News.
In Luke 24, two travelers are trying to understand Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Jesus helps the travelers understand by explaining and telling them the whole story:
“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” (Lk 24:27, NAB)
Once these travelers come to know and understand the scriptures, they could not keep the Good News to themselves:
“So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem… Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24:27, NAB)
Acts 8:26-40 tells a similar story. The disciple, Philip, is led by the Holy Spirit to sit down with an Ethiopian eunuch who is trying to read scripture from the prophet Isaiah. Philip and the eunuch have the following exchange:
“Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (Ac 8:30-31, NAB)
Philip then reads the scripture and explains it:
“Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.” (Ac 8:35, NAB)
Once the eunuch understands the whole story, the story of Christ from Old Testament to New, he wants to be Baptized right away:
“Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” (Ac 8:36, NAB)
These scriptures made clear to me what I was doing wrong. As someone who grew up in a Christian household and grew up around other Christians, who were also read and taught about scriptures daily, I mistakenly assumed that while not everyone understood the Bible, they would at least know the stories. The friends who felt assaulted by my joy in Christ were like the disciples in the scriptures the Holy Spirit led me to read. They needed someone to tell them the story of Jesus from the beginning. They needed the stories to be explained. They needed my time and friendship. Only then, will they come to know the Lord.
From this I learned, that when evangelizing, it is important to first ask the person what they know about God and the Bible. I often find that those who don’t believe haven’t read or been read the Bible. I find that sometimes those who do know the Bible, don’t understand and need it explained. It’s important before sharing the joy of the Gospel to make sure that those listening know and understand the story of Jesus from the beginning. They need to know why he came and what his coming has done for us.