When you saw the title, Engage, for this issue of Faith & Fellowship, it may have led you to pause and think about one or two of the following questions. Let’s look at how the Bible would address them.
Before I bring the gospel to my neighbor, should I prepare myself? Do I need special training? Don’t I need to be armed with great arguments for why my neighbor needs to believe the gospel?
The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” As people who belong to Christ, we are to be ready to answer anyone who asks us why we have hope of eternal life. It is because Jesus paid the penalty for us and gave us this life as a gift.
Isn’t it enough if I am a really good neighbor and they see that there is something different about me? Can’t that be enough for my neighbor to receive the gospel?
Consider this: if you just received incredibly good news like a clean bill of health after suffering with cancer for years, would you expect your neighbor to know that good news if you never told them? Or even more importantly, what if your neighbor was suffering from the same type of cancer and there was absolute evidence that the therapy that cured you would work for your neighbor? Would you expect that being a good neighbor or telling them to see their doctor would be sufficient, or do you need to tell them the “gospel”—the good news of what has happened to you? And you’d be anxious to tell them they can be cured too. Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Other translations substitute “telling them” for “preaching to them.” So, no, it doesn’t mean that the pastor is the only one who can preach the good news to them. You and I need to tell them.
My neighbors are really great people. Better than I am. How would they ever believe that they need the gospel? Or, conversely, my neighbors are the worst people I know. They are beyond help. They won’t listen to anything I say.
In Romans 3:10-12 we read, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Scripture makes clear that both of those neighbors, and all people, are in the same condition before God without Christ. We are called to tell them the good news. Christ doesn’t say that it is our job to make them listen. God’s Spirit is the only one who can open their ears to the truth and give them life through the Word you share.
We also know from Scripture that all of humankind is our neighbor. That is why we in the CLB share the good news with people in the United States and Canada, Africa, Taiwan, and Japan by preparing and sending out pastors and missionaries and planting new churches. I encourage you to bring the good news to your neighbors by actually telling them why your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and by giving to the Church of the Lutheran Brethren so many more will hear the Word that brings life.
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.