I remember the day I got saved like no other. My dad and I used to stay up late playing video games, and on one beautiful summer night, the trajectory of my life would forever be changed. At 2:30 am, I was given an option between life and death.
I wasn’t threatened to make a choice.
I wasn’t forced to believe what Mom and Dad believed.
I wasn’t even given the “you’re going to hell” speech.
Nevertheless, something within my heart drew me to Jesus.
It was not just a choice. It was my choice.
It was not just a decision. It was my decision.
It was not their pressed acceptance. It was my acceptance.
Today, I think many good and well-intentional Christians want to save others, but they are going about it the wrong way.
When I was in high school, for instance, I not so fondly recall reading Jonathan Edward’s pivotal sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
In a secular high school English class, you can imagine the horror and disdain I felt reading this as a student. All the people in my class who didn’t know God, who didn’t understand Christianity or religion, who didn’t have a view, now had the view that the God I loved and served was merely dangling them over a pit of hell. The text made it seem this was a pit of hell He would gladly drop them over the second they made a mistake.
What a sad view of such a loving and powerful God.
Who God Is
While God is a God to be feared, respected, and honored, and hell is a very real place, scaring people into salvation is not what Christ intended for us. And it certainly is not what He called us as His disciples to do.
Yes, the gospel message requires an acknowledgment of our sins. It requires us to humble ourselves before God and realize that we all fall short of the glory of His splendor. It requires us to see that He is God and we are not. Yes, the gospel message requires us to realize that atonement was needed for our sins. That because we sinned and fell in the Garden of Eden, we were the ones who deserved condemnation and hell.
But the gospel message also requires us to realize that because of Jesus, we can be saved. We can confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, ask for forgiveness of our sins, and live the way He intended for us to live. We can become Gospel-Message Bearers just as He was the Light of the World.
A Ministry of Love
Jesus ministered to others using parables. He often taught harsh truths to the Pharisees and Sadducees (who needed harsh words to break free of their obsession with religion). But His main method of conversion was love.
Jesus made it clear that God came to save everyone.
“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, NLT).
“And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39, NLT).
Jesus made it clear that all needed to repent from sin and accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life:
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT).
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NLT).
How to Treat Others
But when Jesus met the woman at the well who’d had five husbands, He didn’t start with, “you’re going to hell.” He started with, “I know everything about you, but I’m here to offer you a way of life that will never run dry” (John 4).
When God called Noah, and he ran away, God sent protection and love in the form of conviction (Genesis 5:29).
When Jesus felt the tears of a prostitute flow over His feet, He didn’t tell her to get out; He let her touch Him. He let her get close, and her life was changed (Luke 7:36-50).
As a born-again Christian, I will not minimize the seriousness of sin, salvation, heaven, or hell. All are real, and all have consequences or outcomes. But when it comes to sharing the Gospel, might I plead with you this:
The student in my class who came from a divorced family needs to know that Jesus sees her and loves her before she’s told she’s going to Hell without Him.
The student in my class who was the child of two people addicted to drugs needs to know that Jesus came to offer her a better way of life and love before she’s told to just go to church and figure it out.
The student in my class who is stuck in a generational wave of mental health disorders needs to hear that God is with them in health and poverty before they’re given a blanket statement to just pray or read their Bible more.
The student in my class who feels like religion and God are being forced down their throat needs to know and experience the love, care, and true gospel message of Christ through you before you expect them to become a follower of Christ.
Our world needs more living out and less suppression. It needs Christians willing to live and breathe like Jesus so that others may experience Him and be saved.
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[c] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16, NLT).
Be an Effective Agent of Change
The most effective agents of change for Christ are not those scaring people into salvation. And despite the popularity of “hell walks” at churches during Halloween, I do not believe fear has a place in the love and salvation Christ offers the sinner.
The most effective agents of change for Christ are those who build a trusting relationship with the sinner.
These change agents invest in those relationships by living as Christ intended them to and then present the gospel message—not to scare them but to show them a reality. Not to force them but to offer them a choice.
This is a choice that will change their entire life for eternity to come.
Jesus was a friend of sinners, and so should we be.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
Amber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk,