Recently I was walking around at a downtown arts and music festival with my girlfriend when I got stopped by a nice old lady who handed me a “What if?” card. She was friendly enough, so I stopped and had a nice, short conversation about what would happen to me if I got in a car crash and died that night (which, luckily, I didn’t). I never have been a fan of street evangelism, but she asked a few more questions and then we went on our way.
Soon after this, a middle-aged man stopped me again and asked similar questions. This time, however, it seemed that no matter how I answered, he was out to prove to me that I needed to hear what he had to say. I politely told him that I was a Christian, and even though I deserved punishment for my sins, I accepted Christ’s grace.
That wasn’t good enough.
After explaining to me that lusting after a woman is the same as committing adultery in God’s eyes, and because of my sins I deserved to go to hell, I tried to tell him that I understood and agreed with him. I thanked him for his time and tried to continue, but he kept probing. Even if I told him all the “right answers,” he just would not let me leave.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that we are to be salt and light to the world. We are supposed to be bold and stand up for what we believe in. But, I wonder if this is really what Jesus had in mind. When Jesus spoke to people, He didn’t hand out his business card, and he didn’t try to sell anything.
The analogy of salt and light is interesting, because salt and light actually share a lot of characteristics. In a dark room, you don’t need an abundant amount of light to be able to walk around safely. Similarly, you don’t need very much salt to make your veggies taste better. In fact, in both of these examples, it is best when you have salt and light in moderation. If something is too bright, it hurts your eyes. If you add too much salt, you ruin your food.
When I was walking around on the streets, both street evangelists asked me “what if?” Instead of asking strangers about their deaths, what if we, as Christians, did things differently? What if we, like Jesus, focused on helping people’s immediate needs, like food, safety, and health?
Look at how we do mission trips in other countries. Do most missionaries walk around scaring people about death, or do they open orphanages, provide clean drinking water, and pass out food? In my mind, that looks much more like Jesus than what we try to do in America.
People passing out tracts or other similar evangelism tactics have their hearts in the right place, and most of us should follow their lead. There is no question that this world needs salt and light.
Let’s just try not to hurt their eyes.