I asked three people about their heroes. The first, KM, a 67 y.o. Christian woman, said that her sister, Darlene was her heroine. The traits that KM mentioned as inspirational included selflessness, humility, hospitableness, faithfulness in her religion (Catholicism), being an understanding wife, being a stimulating teacher, and loving children. The traits reminded me of Lydia who opened her home as a house church and of Phoebe, whom Paul says selflessly served him and many others. I felt convicted of my selfishness in not being more welcoming of others into my home (or my life). It suggests that in evangelism with this person, leaving my comfort zone and reaching out with a servant heart, as Jesus did, would be helpful.
The second person, CA, a 67 y.o. deist man, gave two names, Miss Kingman, one of his elementary school teachers, and his father. CA admired Miss Kingman’s life of service and that she was always purposeful, determined that her students would learn every bit of the material and willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. She was a Christian and lived it. He admired his dad for his strong sense of duty to the family and to the community, his loyalty, and his determination to do the right thing as he saw it. He too was a believer. Once again, I felt convicted of my selfishness. I think Jesus is the Biblical model for both Miss Kingman’s determination that her students would grasp the truths she sought to teach and for CA’s father’s sacrificial giving of his time and heart. I think that CA’s strong focus on knowing and doing the right thing, regardless of personal cost, could be helpful in explaining the Gospel to him. Christ died, paying the ultimate price in order to do the right thing, because we didn’t. He also gives us the Bible and the Holy Spirit so that we can know what the right thing is.
The final person I asked was JC, a 60 y.o. male atheist. JC also regarded his father as his hero, admiring his dad’s work ethic, his advice on raising children (JC has two very strong-willed daughters), the sense of self-respect his dad taught him, and his dad’s self-sacrificing love for his family. Here, I think Paul is the Biblical model–hard work, self-sacrificing love, and constant attention to the Gentile churches to help them learn how to live in a Christlike manner with each other and in the world. JC seems ambivalent about his father, which could make evangelism challenging. While he admired his father’s hard work, he resented the time that he spent away from home working. He admired his father’s standards of morality but rejected them for himself. He appreciated that his father was supportive in helping JC raise his own daughters, but failed to follow his father’s advice in many cases. JC may approach God in the same way–it’s a good place to start, or a nice basis for general morality, but he is likely to pick and choose the parts of the Christian faith, or the Bible, that he finds acceptable and ignore the rest. He, like most of us (all of us?) is more likely to welcome Jesus as Savior of his soul than Jesus as Lord of his life. For this reason, I think that it will be essential to establish the trustworthiness of Scripture and the reliability of its manuscripts before attempting to evangelize him. Unless he is fully convinced that God has the right to direct his thoughts and behavior, JC is likely to regard the Bible as useful, but not a final authority, and the Jesus as a helpful advisor, like his father–not as his King, to be obeyed without reserve or argument.