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Witnessing and
Misleading Appearances

Abstract: Many a person witnessed to doesn’t appear to have potential for God’s kingdom, yet in some cases, these individuals who seem so hardened and opposed to God, become great champions for God’s cause.

I am sure Jesus’ “Neither do I condemn thee, Go sin no more” came as quite a shock to the people observing Him that day (John 8:11). After all, the woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and the people who had brought her knew for a fact that she was guilty-probably they had too much first hand knowledge and were also guilty! The same was probably true for the disciples as they returned from the village and found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman (John 4) who should have been off limits for a Jew and her coming to the well, alone, might have suggested to their minds that something was amiss. The religious intelligentsia of Jesus’ day were also often upset because He freely mingled with sinners who seemed to get a free pass so far as they were concerned (Matt. 9:10). And let’s not forget that one of His closest companions was Matthew, a former tax collector (Matt. 9:9), and everyone knew about the poor standing of tax collectors in the sight of God. Sinners seemed to revel in his company (Mark 2:15). To the established ways of thinking, Jesus was often off the mark so far as who He reached out to.

Here are some conclusions to be drawn from these experiences…

1. Jesus apparently looked at people differently than we do much of the time, and saw potential in the most unlikely prospects.

2. Jesus apparently forgot that sinners needed correcting before they felt assurance.

3. Jesus chronically forgot to throw stones when it came to correcting people.

When we think of witnessing, one of our challenges is not being misled by the deceiving negative appearances of people who are actually good prospects. For that reason we often avoid talking with them since they have no potential, and out of our fear they may get angry and react and perhaps create an embarrassing situation-who wants to have someone get angry on an airplane for example. But from the examples cited, we see that these very people who seemed such unlikely candidates became the very people He reached out to, and sometimes became His ardent followers.

When you peer back into history, some of the people God used the most had unsavory beginnings. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace was so profane and ungodly-sometimes leading the sailors in raping the slaves in the hold, that he even shocked the sailors who were on his ship. He was able to write with knowledge and conviction about God saving wretches like him.

I think of John Bunyan who at one time sinned as rapidly as he possibly could. Fortunately he had a godly wife who was praying for him, and he eventually came to write many books that profoundly impacted Christianity such as Pilgrim’s Progress.

I could go on, but the point is, there is gold under the surface of ALL hearts, regardless of what appears on the outside, IF approached the right way--undoubtedly sympathetically and extending the gift of honest commendation in a non patronizing, affirming way. Failure to approach the right way, however, can only harden further, from which comes the term “gospel hardening.”

As I was reading this morning, I was reminded by Charles Trumbull in Taking Men Alive that fishermen never throw stones or thrash the water when pursuing fish, but study to allure them. That might be a good thing to remember as we witness as well.

Happy witnessing!

Dan 12/17/2007

This is one of many short essays on witnessing at Christian Witnessing Works on facebook and at path2prayer.com. Discuss witnessing at the open Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at my blog where these also appear. Thank you for only making personal use of these essays.