Last week I got this in e-mail from my friend and former co-worker Mick Thornton,
“This is a video of a famous atheist (Penn Gillete from Penn & Teller, the Vegas Magician guys) from a few weeks ago. A guy after a show tells him about Jesus and gives him a Bible, and Penn is very complimentary about the whole deal. His entire point of the vlog is to talk about how good of a man the guy is. Penn the atheist talks in this video about how hateful you must be if you believe in Jesus and don’t tell other people about him. very interesting. great illustration.”
Check this video out for yourself here.
I love Penn’s line in his vlog “how much do you have to hate someone not to proselytize them?” I love the fact that he, one of the most famous atheists on the planet, is adamant that if he really believed in heaven and hell he would do everything in his power to get people out of hell and into heaven.
In other words this wildly popular entertainer views evangelism as an act of love, not hate. He sees it for what it is, sincere people doing their best to keep other people from suffering eternal damnation. Too bad many in ministry today don’t see evangelism the same way. Many who claim the name of Christ seek to reframe, marginalize or ignore it as a relic of modernity. When they do talk about evangelism in a postmodern culture they try to take the sting off of it, making the gospel sound like a nice little bedtime story that a person can weave into their own narrative in their ongoing journey toward spirituality…or whatever.
But, try as we may, evangelism at it’s most elemental level is trying to save a person from the flames of hell. It is rescuing them from something, to something, from condemnation to transformation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John put it this way in the third chapter and thirty sixth verse of his gospel, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” I’m sure Penn would appreciate John’s candor.
Here is Jesus’ “vlog” on the whole subject in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
Of course we should communicate the gospel in love and sincerity. We should seek to communicate it out of a pure heart and tell the gospel story in a compelling way. But, as we evangelize we need to remember what is at stake for those who reject it’s message. This will add the missing ingredient in much of what passes off as evangelism today…urgency.
Those who claim the Name of Christ and who scorn evangelism as an intrusive act of heartless coercion should take a cue from Penn, John or, better yet, Jesus Himself. Evangelism at its core is the ultimate act of love. It is seeking to save somebody from hell.