Humans have a tendency to self-classify based on certain identifiers and to group together with others who are alike. For example, we might define ourselves or others based on ethnicity or interests or political affiliations or countries of origin or lifestyles or the like. In discussions of sharing the gospel, we sometimes wonder if there is a particular way that the gospel is best shared with a person of any of these particular groups.
It is true that there are commonalities among those with similar cultural backgrounds or other types of group identifiers. And it’s true that certain aspects of the gospel message may resonate more deeply with one group over another—and certain groups may have a particular resistance to receiving the gospel—but the gospel message is universal. Every human being is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Every human being is born in sin and separated from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). The way of forgiveness and eternal life is only through Jesus—this is true for every human being (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We need not think of one another in terms of a group classification. Our duty in life is to fulfill the Great Commission. Christians are called to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus, with everyone (Luke 24:47).
First Peter 3:15–16 tells us, “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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Our lives should be a reflection of the reality of the gospel. We live in submission to Christ as Lord. In part, this means that we treat others with gentleness and respect, no matter what group they identify with. Sharing the gospel is an act of compassion. Sharing the gospel is not about finding areas of dissimilarity. It’s about sharing a universal message to meet a universal need.
The question of sharing the gospel with a ______ often becomes complicated when it comes to people engaged in a particularly obvious sin that seems to be part of their lifestyle—or even their identity. For example, when witnessing to homosexuals or to heterosexual couples living together out of wedlock, we are prone to condemn the sin and try to modify the person’s behavior before sharing about Jesus. While we need to recognize sin for what it is, we must also remember that the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts (John 16:8). We usually don’t need to catalog a person’s sins, or even single one out, to share the fact that Christ died for sinners. Trying to “clean up one’s act” or stop a specific sin will not grant anyone eternal life. Homosexuals and fornicators are not saved by stopping their sexual sin but by receiving Christ by faith; the sin will stop after they are transformed and made new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Another time the question of sharing the gospel with a ______ can become complicated is when we interact with someone of a different religion. We might gravitate toward apologetics and begin pointing out everything that is incorrect in the false religion, but that is usually counterproductive. Apologetics is useful, as is knowledge about the person’s beliefs and how they differ from what the Bible says, but the best way to illumine the darkness is simply to turn on the light. Point the person to Christ. Once people see who Jesus is and what He’s done, they will be able to see everything about their religion that is wrong.
Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), and so should His followers be. We do not share the gospel from an attitude of spiritual pride or a position of superiority. We confront sin when needed. We counter beliefs that are incompatible with the Bible. However, in our sharing of truth, we are careful of the manner in which we share it: “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25–26).
If we were to mistreat or disparage those who are different from us, then we would limit our own opportunities to share the gospel with them. Why would people ever want to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, if followers of Jesus act in a rude, dismissive manner? We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, no matter to whom we are speaking (2 Corinthians 5:16–21). If we are loving, kind, and express concern for all humanity, then we are true reflections of Jesus Christ. Salvation is open to all who will believe: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
When sharing the gospel with a ______, we should show our genuine compassion and concern for him or her as a person, regardless of the group he or she identifies with. We care about what’s going on in his or her life; we are truly concerned for the troubles he or she is facing. In the context of relationship, we can teach him or her of the need for a Savior while pointing to Scripture and explaining how all humanity is lost and in need of Jesus Christ.
In sharing the gospel, it is good to remember that the good news is the “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It is the message that truly changes lives.