Why are some people turned off Jesus? I’ve heard some of the answers out there, and they may well be true within the scope of the experiences of many. While there’s a spiritual component at play [2 Corinthians 4:3-4], I wonder how many people reject Jesus because of how some Christians present Him. Is our proposition compelling enough? The Gospels present a captivating Jesus who drew all types of people to Him: the wealthy, erudite and powerful to the poor and outcast. He was impossible to ignore. So, if people can shun the Jesus you preach, then it’s worth re-examining your proposition.
I heard a sermon recently which deeply convicted me on this subject. Most of my blogs are discipleship-oriented, written primarily for Christians, focusing on how we live out faith practically as we face the vicissitudes of life. But that sermon challenged me to examine the Jesus I present, especially to non-Christians. Today’s blog reflects on the main points of that sermon. Jesus mandated all believers to take His Gospel to the ends of the earth [Matthew 28:19a], but not everyone who hears His Gospel is idle and desperate. Some will be eminently successful and seemingly furnished with all life has to offer. So, our proposition must be compelling enough to make kings cast their crowns before His Majesty [Revelation 4:4], and merchants sell all to purchase the pearl of great price [Matthew 13:45-46].
In the Gospel, Jesus told a parable of a man who invited many to a banquet at his house [Luke 14:15-23]. The host ensured that everything was ready and then sent his servants to inform the guests to come. However, they began to excuse themselves. The first guest said he couldn’t attend because he’d just bought a field and needed to inspect it. The second said he was off to examine oxen he’d just bought and couldn’t make it. Another said he was on his honeymoon and couldn’t attend. Understandably, the host was upset at their rejection, so he sent his servants to the streets to invite the needy and the destitute to the feast, and they came. However, there was still room at the banquet. So, the man sent his servants further afield to persuade everyone to attend the feast because he didn’t want empty seats.
I can think of one other interpretation of this parable, but in the context of this week’s blog, I’d like to focus on those who rejected the banquet invitation. As the preacher highlighted during his sermon, these people had understandable excuses. They weighed up the banquet and another interest, and the latter won. Why would someone go to church over a business opportunity that could net them a tidy profit? Why would the rich and famous use their influence for the Gospel rather than personal gain? Humans will almost always choose to pursue what they believe is most profitable. So, on some level, those who turned down the banquet didn’t find it or the host compelling enough to leave what they were doing. Similarly, people will reject our proposition of Jesus if our message isn’t convincing and superior to their pursuits and preoccupations.
Notice that the host didn’t invite the guests until he ensured everything was ready [Luke 14:17]. If we’re to present Jesus effectively, we must study to show ourselves approved as workmen unashamed of the Gospel, rightly handling the word of truth [2 Timothy 2:15]. Otherwise, we’ll serve an inaccurate Gospel and make claims about God we can’t substantiate. If that happens, our hearers may ridicule or ignore our message or, at best, politely decline our invitation. Nevertheless, irrespective of how we portray Jesus, the truth remains that anyone without Him is bankrupt. But it’s His will that no one should perish. If we love Him, that should also be our desire. If it is, we’ll do all righteously possible to persuade everyone to come to His banquet so that God’s house is full [Luke 14:23]. The easiest way to do this is to articulate and demonstrate what’s available in Jesus that they cannot get anywhere else. It’s difficult for people to ignore or ridicule something you believe that’s also evident in your life that they want but don’t have.
In the first five verses of Psalm 103, David made a compelling argument that the preacher highlighted. David outlined some of the benefits of accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and there isn’t a human being who will not need at least one of these dimensions of Jesus in their lifetime. He presented a Jesus who pardons our wrongdoing when we cry out to Him for forgiveness contritely. A Jesus who heals all our diseases, delivers us from all our fears and crowns us with covenant love and mercy. He also goes further and satisfies us with good things so that we can live a victorious life. Who in their right mind would reject such a God? But people do, and often because of how we present Him. I may be able to reel off what David said about Jesus, but my world needs to see irrefutable evidence of a Jesus who forgives, heals, delivers, exalts and satisfies in my life [Acts 1:8]. When we present a superior alternative with compelling personal testimonies, we won’t need to force people to believe in our Jesus.
Sadly, until we can present a Jesus superior to the counterfeit alternatives of the world, many will continue to flock to their idols and pursue Mammon [Matthew 6:24]. Does your sphere of influence talk about your God as David’s contemporaries talked about his? Are people flocking to Jesus because they can observe His benefits in your life? We’re the servants in Jesus’s parable, sent to the highways and byways to persuade all to come to His banquet. Is your proposition compelling enough? Or are they mocking you or offering excuses?