We tend to think that if we can simply convice a person of the?rightness?or?correctness?of an idea, then they’ll bring their behavior in line with that idea. If we can convince our kids that purity is the right thing to do, then they’ll be pure. If we can convince people that homosexuality is wrong, then they’ll stay away from all homosexual activity. If we can persuade people that life begins at conception, then they’ll oppose abortion. If we can effectively make the case for a Creator, then people will believe in God.
So we write books and blog posts in which we clearly state our case, point by lucid point. We deluge Facebook with snarky status updates. We sign petitions and arrange protests. We write open letters to this person or that person. We call our senators, stating that we oppose this or that bill. We set up debates between Creationists and Evolutionists. We have purity balls and purity rings, which, in my opinion, are a bit on the creepy side.
And while all these things have their place, I think they ignore one, fundamental, massive truth: people are primary people of desire, not ideas. Our behavior is usually driven, first and foremost, by what we want, not what we think. A young man may have all the head knowledge in the world about purity, but when he’s alone with his girlfriend in his car, that knowledge is quickly overwhelmed by desire.
This means, then, that if we’re going to win people to Jesus, we need to aim for both the head and the heart. We need to change people ideas?and?their desires.
If I want my daughters to pursue purity, I need to convince them that purity is morally right, but I also need to show them that purity is a beautiful thing. I need to help my daughters see that following Jesus is and obeying Jesus really is the truly good life. I want them to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). I want them to know that Jesus offers fullness of joy and pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11). To paraphrase John Piper, I want them to see that the pleasures offered by Jesus are superior to the pleasures offered by sexual sin.
If I want my friend to stop engaging in homosexual activity and to start pursuing sexual purity, I need to convince him that homosexuality is morally wrong, but I also need to show him that Jesus truly offers the good life. I need to show him that the kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of priceless worth (Matt. 13:44-46).
I’m concerned that Christians are becoming more known for what we’re against than what we’re for.?People know that we’re against gay marriage, against abortion, against the legalization of marijuana, against liberal politics, and against Hollywood. Do people know what we’re for? Do people know that we’re for the wonderful, satisfying, good life, which Jesus Christ offers? Do people know that we’re for the rest and peace and joy which Jesus offers? Do people know that we’re for the complete and total forgiveness which is found only in Jesus?
Let’s take a stand against things, when necessary. But let’s not make the mistake Westboro Baptist Church makes, of only proclaiming the things we’re against. Let’s also loudly proclaim the goodness and joy and gladness found in Jesus Christ. The reality is, joy is a much more effective evangelism tool than outrage.
NOTE: The idea that we are fundamentally creatures of desire first came to me through James K. A. Smith’s book,?Desiring The Kingdom.