Sunday, August 23, 2015

What Do We Do About the “Live and Let Live” Crowd?

There are people who just plain don’t want to hear it.

The message of the gospel, that is. They think they know what you’re going to say, they’ve heard it all before, and they’ll thank you not to start.

Some of them are outright hostile. They’ve looked around, read a few things, talked to a few people, and they are as satisfied as it’s possible to be (until facing imminent death, when all theories about existence meet their acid test) that they have an answer for life and meaning that does not include Jesus Christ. Any attempt to persuade them to change their mind is exceedingly unwelcome.

So be it. The few brave souls among us willing to intellectually debate them are welcome to do so.

These may actually be the easier ones. Conviction has a way of bringing all the snarling hatred of Christ to the surface.

A False Sense of Adequacy

But not all are hostile. Some appear quite unperturbed by the suggestion they will one day be called to account by God. I call them the “live and let live” crowd. They have not begun to think deeply or even superficially about eternity and the fact that they’re on the express train to it.

Members of the “live and let live” crowd are not prepared to get visibly worked up about dismissing you — the very last thing they’d want to be called is unreasonable — but they are just as determined as the overtly hostile to end before it starts any conversation about death and what looms beyond it. Unless you are fairly perceptive, you might not even notice their “tells”: the sudden subject changes the moment there is anything remotely relevant to distract them; the constant assurances that they’re “very happy that you have found something that works for you”; and always — ALWAYS — the reminders to “live and let live”, as if emotional disconnection from the welfare of others is a virtue and apathy the definitive rebuttal to any real engagement.

How do you puncture this false sense of adequacy? I’m genuinely asking here, because I don’t know the answer.

The Example of Jesus

I’m paging through the gospels in my mind looking for help with this sort of individual, and I see people coming to Jesus. He was out there, he was accessible, he was drawing men and women to himself by the things he said [Note to self: Possible emulation there] and the miracles he did [Note to self: Currently not in my arsenal]. He was consistent, he was irreproachable as to his own conduct (“Which one of you convicts me of sin?”) [Note to self: Oops], and he said things in a way nobody in his audience had ever previously heard them said (“No one ever spoke like this man!”) [Note to self: Not completely impossible in an increasingly pagan society, but a big, BIG stretch].

What I’m not seeing here is the Lord Jesus chasing those who declared themselves uninterested.

The Example of the Apostles

Fast forward to the Acts of the apostles, and we find public speeches (but they were only heard by those who bothered to show up for them), discussions in synagogues and an other religious forums (where people already interested in such things came to hear more). When Cornelius called, Peter came (though he may have needed a little push). But the point was, Cornelius called. He was a righteous man, and he was seeking.

Again, I’m not seeing the apostles expending a great deal of time and energy on those who stayed out of their orbit.

So What’s the Deal Here?

Is it a case of not casting our pearls before ... er ... people who don’t appreciate pearls? When it says you will find him “if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul”, should we draw the conclusion that those who decline to seek will never find?

I’m not entirely certain, but it seems very possible.

Such people will never come out and declare categorically that God does not exist, but it is clear that the question does not matter much to them either way. Behind this lack of interest is, I think, one of two suppositions that may be either consciously held or else absorbed by cultural osmosis.

Two False Assumptions

The first is that finding truth in this life does not matter. This may be because it is more comfortable to imagine a Supreme Being who finds something good in everyone, or it may be because in a sea of fellow beings expressing similar lack of interest in the question, it is thought that whatever one’s ultimate destiny, one will never be alone in it.

The second is that truth itself is unknowable: “ ‘What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate, but would not stay for an answer”.

Both these assumptions are dangerously and demonstrably false.

But how do you make someone care … who doesn’t?


  1. Hi Tom (part 1)
    I think in large part the "caring" is stirred up by the Holy Spirit's work of conviction - and thank God He still cares enough to do it, I would have given up on most people long ago. Whether that "caring" starts in their lives with guilt or an emptiness or a tragedy that has happened, that is when there begins some kind of "seeking" - and very often not before those kinds of stirrings actually happen, especially in our western culture. There is a lot of noise out there to distract from problems of life isn't there? This spring/summer for me, after many years of "seeking to verbally witness" Christ, I set that aside a bit. I don't mean I didn't still look for those opportunities to try and wedge Christ into a conversation but I stopped and began to simply pray: "Lord use me today." I wasn't thinking in terms of getting a list of things to do or ways to serve that would spring out of the bushes at me, but simply began "doing" what came up that day having prayed that prayer, that morning. There were some physical things that arose but not a huge amount. I did those things because they needed doing and I could do them and they were a help to other Christians or a cheerful work was done to help out a neighbor or various strangers at times with little speaking about Christ. By far the most type of opportunity which arose were sinners asking questions to me because of situations that had been going on in their lives or something that they had heard and were troubled by (or were just troubled and they were trying to find "something" to help). There ended up being more opportunity to speak by leaving it with the Lord to make those conversations happen than I had by trying to figure a way to "bring up Christ" in our conversation on my own because I "needed to witness." if I was to be a faithful believer as I had been taught. Contrary to what I had thought, there were many, many people who were interested about hearing what the Bible/God says and that I was a source of the Bible/God to them. I only said what the Word of God mentioned about whatever the subject was. There were times when something came up that I really thought would lead to confrontation. Not once did that happen and I was very surprised. It might happen sometime but I'm just relaying what Christ said. Their problem will be with His Words, not mine.

  2. (Part 2)
    Most times I got the sense that they were spoken to by other Christians and/or that I was just adding a bit more about eternity that they needed right then and I had confidence the Spirit would keep sending others into their lives down the road. I do keep tracks etc on hand that I can leave them with if the conversation goes that way. There have been a few strange times that I couldn't find those "helps" to leave them with as I thought I should, and then found them a few minutes after they were gone forever and I had no way to track them down. The way the spring/summer has been going, I take that as the Lord's timing in the work He is doing in their lives (the right amount of truth/information at the right time).
    This hasn't answered the question on how can we stir up caring about Christ (and I would be interested hearing any who have insights that way too) but there is an awful lot of people already "seeking" answers and it has been a full summer taking up those opportunities.
    Some, in my spheres, have been indifferent for years. I don't press the issue any longer to try to "get them" for Christ. I'm quite pathetic when I try to do that anyway with my brilliant words (usually foot in mouth). Life is messy and no one escapes the mess of it. As "messes" happen in their lives, some of them have broken down and talked because, aside from Christ, who has genuine eternal answers? Any other man made religion is only those dust filled "cisterns" that cannot quench the thirst of the heart. All will get thirsty eventually at some point. As one has said, in the heart of every sinner is a secret ally for us: the convicting Holy Spirit - a fifth column as it were. I don't hide my life as a Christian because that is what I am. I was born again that way hahaha

  3. Most times I got the sense that they were spoken to by other Christians and/or that I was just adding a bit more about eternity that they needed right then...

    I've had that experience too.

    All will get thirsty eventually at some point.

    I hope that's true. It's not my experience, but then I don't get to see the entire life, nor do I get to see inside the heart. I've had a couple of conversations in the last while that didn't do much more than make it clear how badly the person in question misunderstood what Christians are sharing, but there was no way at the time to continue the conversation, which can be a little frustrating. It left me thinking what a long way there was to go.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  4. The word of God speaks about "fortresses," meaning "speculations" and "lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God." (2 Cor. 10:4-5) It calls the challenging of these things "warfare." Well, is not an attitude of indifference -- a shell of unconcern, a capitulation to pious platitudes like "live and let live," or perhaps a diffident attitude -- evidence of something "lofty" being raised up against the knowledge of God? If so, why would we give it a "pass" in a way that we would not give a "pass" to an outright assault on truth?

    So then, when men have run into a straw house, to knock it down before the wolf arrives just might be the kindest thing you can do. Likewise, if the lost take refuge in indifference, might it not be the kindest thing to convince them of the truth that they're in peril? And would it really matter that they don't want to hear it?

    Personally, I'm rather skeptical of the appearance of offhandedness and light dismissal of the gospel. I'm not at all easily convinced it reveals the true heart of the person demonstrating it. I'm much more inclined to think it's disingenuous, a mere evasion of a topic at which he/she feels ill-equipped to win.

    However, there may be exceptions to that. I just don't think there's as many really indifferent people as there are people who use indifference to shut down a kind of conversation they're unable to win.

  5. The question is - do we really understand it? If you think about it, never mind the person in your immediate neighborhood, but isn't there a gargantuan problem or set of tasks (which God knows about, of course) of introducing the biblical message to a planet getting more and more crowded with people very removed from that message by upbringing, culture, value systems, etc? So, one would ask, isn't God taking this business of letting the sun shine and rain fall in a statistically fair manner on everyone a bit too far? Wouldn't it help to introduce a little bias towards those who may seek him out, even if just a bit, be more convincing and have him make headway (from our perspective)?

    From what I said previously, I think the convenience factor is at work here, in that people's actions are mostly determined by how conveniently the results fit into their lives. What I am suggesting above is, shouldn't it palpably produce inconvenience to not care and be indifferent towards the Christian message?

    To answer my own questions, I actually have seen for some people that such inconvenience exists and that it is indeed alleviated by turning to Christ. So, I actually belief that there logically is, and must be, a reward system in place by seeking the company of Christ. If the bias were too obvious though, it would clearly conflict with free will in choosing that path. The difficult thing is that we are not privy to seeing how that balance is properly struck in the divine perspective. It is a very personal thing between you and your creator. In short then, there is hope but not necessarily perceivable by us, the creature.