(Third of a Series)
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.
With examples from Holy Scripture we are trying to learn ways and attitudes which will better enable us to witness to our Lord. These examples, drawn from the four Gospels and from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, are by no means exhaustive.
As with the basketball strategy of one-on-one, we are looking at examples of one Christian witnessing to another individual. We are not considering what was said to individuals already in the faith, though that is also applicable. We are not considering what was said to groups, though that also is applicable as a witnessing technique. We will be considering various situations where it was one-on-one, and the one being witnessed to was living in unbelief….
The ultimate goal in all witnessing is to be like John the baptizer and point to Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. While we want to try earnestly to develop our skills in this area, we don’t want to forget John’s motto, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
No matter what spiritual gifts we have and how we develop them, we are not looking for glory for ourselves. We are looking to have another soul join us in glorifying our Savior-God.
Saint Mark records how after Jesus had answered the Pharisees and Herodians who were sent to entrap Him, the Savior then answered some Sadducees. The scribe who came upon Jesus’ refutation of the Sadducees was pleased at Jesus’ answers. Undoubtedly the scribe also disagreed with the Sadducees’ teachings and attitude, for he saw in Jesus a kindred spirit—not just the wisdom of the Lord’s answers but the content. He then put a question to Jesus. After the Lord answered the scribe’s question, the scribe acknowledged their agreement, and that there was common ground between them.
In our witnessing it is important to have a base upon which to build both our witness and our relationship with the prospect so that he is willing to listen. This scribe knew the law but as yet he did not know the gospel.
In this case, the scribe was attracted to Jesus by our Lord’s wise answers. Yet other things may also attract an inquirer.
For instance, are our good deeds visible (or in other words are we doing them)? Is our moral character such that our life is a principled one? Do we show with our life that we are not willing to compromise the high standard of God’s Word? If this is the case, this may attract an inquirer. One thing is certain, and that is that wickedness not only does not draw inquirers but even repels them. Why should anyone want to inquire after evil? After all, we all know how to do that already. Why should anyone want to inquire after compromising a principle? That too is the ever present, pragmatic way of the world around us.
There is no question but that we see in this text the importance of having some things in common—having common ground on which to build the witness and relationship. We should even try to establish some things in common. For example, I noticed a fine rose garden as I approached a door during a neighborhood canvass. I let the person know that we were both admirers of fine roses. That put my visit in a favorable, neighborly light, which would advantage me if I would ever approach his door again. While it seems like a little thing, it can go a long way in establishing a relationship, avoiding the ‘icy’ attitude of stranger to stranger.
In our selfish, self-centered day not many people have a real interest in others. As Christians we should be genuinely interested in people for whom Christ died. Isn’t that part of true Christian love?
It is also noteworthy that this encounter ends on a positive note, though not with conversion. Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” The scribe had understanding up to a point. With this encounter you can imagine a later meeting of our Lord with the scribe and a good discussion ensuing.
On our part, we should want to leave our witnessing encounter on a positive note. This scribe did not show any such reaction, so that our Lord spoke as He did. However, if the scribe had exhibited impenitence, it would have been false to imply that all was fine with him just as he was.
Another thing to note is that in the encounter there is nothing wrong with complimenting a prospect if he is correct on something. Why not give credit where credit is due? We will just guard against any fawning. An honest statement or appraisal as given by our Lord here is in order.
So then, in order for an encounter like this to take place, seek to speak, do, and live each day according to God’s will. And pray that others may see your good works and speak to you, with the result that they may join you in glorifying the Lord for His grace and mercy.