Most people don’t share their faith enough. When you do – what is your goal?
In Mark 2:1-12, four friends are trying to get their paralyzed friend to see Jesus – because they believe that Jesus has the power to heal their friend. Jesus – rather than simply heal the man – proclaims that his sins are forgiven. Some official religious leaders (scribes) interrupt this powerful moment of healing with a theological issue. There is a good chance that Jesus was trying to provoke the issue, because He used it to make a point about His authority to forgive sins. The man was healed by Jesus, and the crowd praised God.
Christ’s goal was not to get the man to church (or synagogue). In this story, the official religious leaders of the day actually did a lot to prevent this man from experiencing God’s healing. In fact, from Amos to Jeremiah to Jesus, there are numerous times in the Bible that the established religious institutions are the biggest hindrance to encountering the living God. Jesus wanted to connect to this disabled man (and his friends) in his pain, He wanted this man to know who He was, and He wanted to heal the man. We know that Jesus would later die for the sins He was forgiving (sin and pain/brokenness are related). Jesus didn’t ignore sin and pain – but identified with the broken and hurting – and overcame sin and pain in the resurrection. He doesn’t take away all pain but calls people to follow Him through pain and overcome – experiencing transformation and new creation.
Christ’s goal was not to get the paralyzed man to pray the prayer of salvation. The paralyzed man did have to choose to believe in Jesus and His authority to forgive sins; the man did have to choose to try to stand up and realize He had been healed. People do need to make decisions for Jesus. There is healing and strength that can only come from Christ, and humans are made to live in relationship with their loving Creator. We do evangelism to share the hope, healing, and power that comes from living in relationship with our Creator. Christ’s goal was not just for people to follow Him; many of those who started in following Jesus turned back (John 6:66). We should measure evangelism on lives transformed in Jesus, not “salvation prayers” or church attendance.
The goal is for all people to be closer to Christ – including the paralyzed man in his brokenness, the disciples in their need to understand who Jesus is, and the Pharisees in their antagonism to Jesus. Evangelism begins with identifying with the struggles and questions that people have, with listening and asking questions, with prayer for and with people, and by inviting deeper faith in God through support, encouragement, and challenging questions.