Do non-Christians make you angry and upset you? Which kind? Any kind? Atheists? Buddhists? Jews? Wiccans? Muslims? New-Agers? Garden variety pagans? You name it. Are you upset, even angry at or about people who don’t share your faith perspective or “come to Jesus?”? Where do we get that?
It doesn’t appear that it was Jesus’ method to provoke or argue people into the kingdom. Jesus was an advocate of love, sacrifice, and reverent obedience to His Father, showing a character so different and so unpossessed by the things of the world that people took note. The way He carried Himself was really quite jaw dropping. He was a marvelous example of love, grace, mercy, humility and sacrifice all the way to the cross. There were a lot of people who were drawn to His uncomplicated gospel message and were likewise drawn to a relationship with Him. These people comprehended the love of God and decided receiving it was in their best interest.
There were also a lot of people, and likely no small number of them, who directly heard or heard about Jesus and decided to pass on His offer of salvation and hope.Is it any different today? It appears Jesus went patiently about His work of unpacking the gospel and preparing His disciples to carry on after Him. In fact, there’s no record of them either being angry with those who don’t accept the gospel invitation. (Jesus does talk about the folly of casting pearls before pigs which is analogous to investing considerable time arguing or presenting precious gospel truths to those who are not ready and still at the “stiff arm” or argumentative stage. Matt. 7:6)Aside from the religious elite, these “bondage makers” who would steer people away from the gospel truths, do the gospels show any record of Jesus being ticked at those who were either still processing His message or even rejecting His message?
Paul was clear in his pronouncement that not all “hearers” would become “possessors” of the gospel and its saving message. In 1 Cor. 1:18 he shares a truth that is as valid for us today as it was for him. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”As we communicate the seed of the gospel among those in our circles, we just don’t know how the seed will “take.” (Luke 8) And yet Revelation 7:9 tells us in advance that in heaven there will be more people there than we can count, people of “every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne” in gratitude and worship to Jesus the Lamb. Ex-Atheists. Ex-Buddhists. Ex-Jews. Ex-Wiccans. Ex-Muslims. Ex-New Agers. Ex-Garden variety pagans.
Many people characterize Jesus followers as “angry.” We probably need to accept some criticism for our occasional hypocritical acts, but in my experience membership in that “club” extends well outside Christianity. But angry? What would we have to be angry about? First of all, the “offense” is rejecting God, not rejecting you or me. Second, God knows that through people hearing the gospel and the ministry of the Holy Spirit it normally takes time for them to acknowledge their need for forgiveness and turn to Him. “God is patient toward you, not wanting that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Ptr. 3:9)
There will be people in heaven that are a surprise to you and me. And some will be missing who we supposed were a “sure thing”. “I never knew you, depart from Me.” These are haunting words (Matt.7:23).
As God’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18), we are called to accurately and in love communicate God’s message of reconciliation, just as Jesus himself were making the appeal. No need to be uptight about the immediate results. You may have jumped on the Jesus’ bandwagon at the first sound of His name but most of us didn’t. Most people don’t. But they are attracted to lovingkindness. Give them something attractive to ponder about hope and a life of faith. What in your faith experience, your story is irresistible? Surely something. People will come to faith. They will respond. This often takes time. Sometimes there is much to overcome or work through. Heaven will host more people than we can count. Let’s not be angry now about these future travelers. Think About It.