Imagine you were able to peer into the minds of non-Christians and see what they know about Jesus. You might be able to uncover something that could be corrected, a misunderstanding, or simple clarification. It might influence how Christians talk about Jesus, or how our language confuses people. On an individual basis, it would be helpful as we try to tell the story of Jesus.
This is exactly the opportunity I had this week. I teach a class on spirituality. It is not a required class, and the roster is incredibly diverse. Buddhists, Jews, agnostics, atheists, and a few Christians circle the room. This week I gave them a 20 question short-answer religious literacy quiz designed to teach the class a basic understanding of what college students believe and reveal our ignorance about major world religions. Most people get about 4-5 of the questions right. Every single person knew the answer to this question:
Why, according to Christians, did Jesus die?
Paul writes in Romans 10 that everyone who calls on Jesus name will be saved – but how can people call on his name if they haven’t heard about him? And how will people hear if nobody is preaching? The natural application is – preach! We need to preach more!
But what if the people you are preaching to already know what you are preaching?
This must be exactly what Paul had experienced, for in the next few verses he describes this same phenomenon – “of course they have heard!” Over the next chapter Paul clarifies that we ought to approach this with humility, not being arrogant of what faith we have. Instead we look to the celebration when those far from God accept him.
Paul circles back around to, “so what should we do?” Should we preach? Should we stop people and tell them that God died for them? Should we take every opportunity to share “salt” and “seed?”
His answer begins with “Therefore…” in which he explains a few applications of what it means to offer not just your words (i.e. truth), but your whole life. It’s one of my favorite chapters, it was in our wedding vows, and I know I need to re-read it about once a week. If people have already heard the words, they need to see it in real life.
If you survey your friends, I bet they know why Jesus died. But they might not have seen one of his followers live.