You Know How To Evangelize
#YouKnowHowToEvangelize is the podcast for January 14, 2017 . The Incarnation, John the Baptist, and a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses shows we know how to evangelize. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John1 #JehovahsWitness #Incarnation #Evangelism #Evangelization
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/14/2018 The 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read John 1:35-42.
You already know how to evangelize. You may not think you do, but you do. You do because our example comes from the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. I will get back to this.
The other day, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses came by my house. I was truly on my way out the door to a staff meeting, so, I had to cut to the chase. I said, “I am a Catholic and, unfortunately, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the first heresy of the Church, you are Arians. You do not believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human. You believe that he is an intermediary creation between God and humanity. This is based upon the translation of the Gospel of John you have. That translation is based upon texts that were rejected by the Church because they are not the best and most accurate parchment of the Gospel of John found.”
I believe if I had to do it all over again, I would have been gentler. One of the two got really angry at me. She started to lose her cool and I excused myself to go to my meeting. As much as I admire their dedication, their tenacity, and their willingness to go door to door, which I have done, I am sorry, but the point about Jesus being the God-man and not a separate creation is critically important to us going to heaven. Here is why:
The Gospel of John is filled with the hypostatic union reality. What I mean by that is the Gospel of John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This shapes our world view as Christians. It means that we, as Christians, do not hate the physical body. We are not trying to escape the physical body by focusing on our spiritual existence. God did not reject a physical body: he took on flesh to dwell among us. It means that we do not hate the things that the body is used for: eating, working, thinking, playing and sex, among others.
The body is meant for us to live out our existence with God. “Hypostatic” means fundamental and “union” means union, of course. We say that in Jesus his divinity and humanity are in hypostatic union. You cannot meticulously remove parts of divinity and parts of humanity from Jesus. You cannot say, “This is Jesus acting as the divine. This is Jesus acting as a human.” The mechanics of salvation depends upon this: in Jesus God and humanity are joined together fundamentally. Anyone who is joined to Jesus Christ in baptism shares this same fundamental union. If Jesus is, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses propose, a third creation, then we are not really joined to God in Jesus. Sin is not overcome. We are not saved. I will get back to this point.
The fact that Jesus is God and man means that when God wanted to save the world, he did not demand that we bow to him far away in the heavens. It means he came to be one of us in the flesh; encounter us as one of us to redeem us through the physical and spiritual existence. It means that when God wanted to save us from sin, he did it through a relationship. The eternal, omnipotent, all mighty God, the Creator of the Universe became just like you so that he could experience the joys and, ultimately, the pain of being just like you.
So, the first thing we learn from the Gospel of John for our passage today is that God saves through relationships.
Look at John the Baptist. Here he comes out of the wilderness with that market tested, politically correct message, “Repent!” He proclaims the message of repentance in preparation for salvation and garners quite a following. He gets disciples who dedicate their lives to his message and cause. John himself knows Jesus. He knows that he was sent to make the path straight in preparation for the coming of Jesus. He knows who Jesus is. He tells his disciples when he sees Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold the one who takes away the sins of the world!” He knows that Jesus is the God man who will be sacrificed on the cross like the lambs of the sin offering were sacrificed as instructed in the Book of Leviticus. Yet, this Lamb is an eternal being: the man who is also God. So, when he is sacrificed on the Cross as a sin offering, it is an eternal sacrifice for all people for all sins. It might be more accurate to say, “Behold, the Lamb who is God.”
If you look at the passage, there is something that is hardly noticed: John seems to encourage his disciples to follow Jesus. I want you to think about that for a moment. John doesn’t come to build up ‘his ministry’, he comes to advance the Kingdom of God. If it means he loses followers so that others can follow Jesus, then so be it. John proclaims, meets Philip, Philip meets Nathanael, Nathanael knows Peter, all of these guys introduce each other one by one to Jesus. They become saved one person at a time. They form a community that goes out into the world building relationships, introducing people to Jesus Christ, and forming communities.
Here is what we learn from John on the surface: evangelism is introducing others to the Jesus you know. It is not introducing people to the Jesus in the theology books, the four steps to salvation, etc. Evangelism is inviting people to come to the new church you just joined or the one you have been going to for a long time. It is having a relationship with people, building relationships, showing you can be trusted. It is living out your faith authentically and letting others see that.
You can stand out on the corner with a bullhorn if you would like. Yet, that is not required. If you are honest in your dealings; if you are wise in your speech; if you are just in your judgments, if you are a servant of the outcast like Christ, then people will want to know why. If you are a Christian, you need to get out and join clubs and organizations in addition to the Church which expose you to people who can see the life you live and then be open to you inviting them to come.
Evangelism is developing relationships with people and letting God bring forth a time when you tell them about the Jesus you know. For me, Jesus is the one who came to me and told me that I was not the worthless piece of junk that someone in my family told me I was. I had a relationship with a teacher who invited me to sing in his church choir because he needed a baritone. I came, met Christ, and stayed in relationship with him. I know others who have known Christ all their lives because their parents introduced them to Jesus, like John did.
What is your relationship with Jesus Christ like? Why is Jesus important to you? What does going to [your] church mean to you? What difference does having Jesus Christ in your life make to you?
After you have that in your mind, be ready. God will send people to you. Who do you know that you could invite with ease? Who do you know that could use a dose of the Love of God? Pray for them. Then ask them to join you. If you don’t, other people will and what they have to offer may not be the fundamental union of God with men, Jesus Christ. This message could not be more urgent. The world needs you to love them and then introduce them to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian