When you think of “evangelism” or an “Evangelist”, the word “gentle” usually is not the first word to come to mind. Words like “confrontational, loud, abrasive” may come to mind, depending on what your experience has been.
And yet the Bible says this:
1 Peter 3:15 — Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
Look at the definition of the original greek words that are translated here as “gentleness” and “respect”:
Gentleness = Praytes = Mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness.
Respect = Phobos = Respect, Fear and Reverence.
When telling people about the hope we have in Christ, Peter says we should do so with “gentleness of spirit, meekness” and with “respect and reverence” for the person we are talking to!
Paul instructs Timothy along these same lines:
2 Timothy 2:24-25 — And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
Of course we speak truth, but we speak the truth IN LOVE, we “correct our opponents WITH GENTLENESS”, not anger.
Remember, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit listed Galatians chapter 6 is GENTLENESS. So, rudeness, offensiveness and abrasiveness are actually not fruits of the Spirit.
The gospel is inherently offensive to those who are perishing, but oh how often we add to that offense unnecessarily!
As we’ve been working in Spain to reach people with the gospel of Christ, the Holy Spirit has continually brought me back to this idea of gentleness and meekness. One morning the Lord gave me a picture of a Spaniard dressed in the armor of a Conquistador. He looked like a valiant soldier. And yet, underneath the armor he was emaciated, sickly and near death. The Lord then showed me how foolish it would be to rail against the armor in trying to help this person. Instead of fighting him, I should work to bring healing and restoration by going between the cracks of the armor.
Too often I think we foolishly “beat against people’s armor” instead of using the weapon of gentleness and respect to share the love of Christ.
A soft answer truly can turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). You can say the right thing but in the wrong way and completely turn someone off to the Lord.
Just a few months ago while in downtown Los Angeles there was a group of people with signs and bullhorns protesting something. They sounded loud and angry as they shouted in the bullhorns something that was nearly impossible to hear. When we finally got close to them, the signs said “Jesus Loves You!” and the person shouting was literally SHOUTING “GOD LOVES YOU!!!” in an angry voice. Can I tell you, the response from those I saw around them was not positive!
Proverbs 11:30 tells us that “he who wins souls is WISE.”
It takes wisdom to win souls. If you turn that statement around we can also learn that often it’s our ignorance and foolishness that cause us to NOT win souls! I believe one of the biggest areas where we have failed as the church is in this area of gentleness and respect in how we deal with those who don’t believe.
So, let’s be WISE as serpents and GENTLE or INNOCENT as doves (Matthew 10:16) in how we treat people. Just maybe we could see more fruit in evangelism when we exhibit more of the fruit of the Spirit in reaching those who are lost without Christ.