How to Practice Patience and Kindness in Evangelism
Note: This is the first article in a three-part series on practicing the attributes of love in evangelism. In each article, authors highlight one or more attribute of love found in First Corinthians 13:4-8 and discuss how it also applies to Evangelism. Read the second and third articles in this series.
Almost everyone has heard about the man who prayed, “God, give me patience and give it to me now.”
In evangelism, that is not merely a bit of humor, it’s a plea that all of us ought to make to God each day as we interact with the lost. First Corinthians 13:4-8 speaks of the characteristics of love. What is interesting is that it describes love not so much in terms of what it is but in terms of what it does. If there are two characteristics of love that ought to characterize us in our interactions with non-Christians, they are patience and kindness.
Let’s talk about patience first.
If you are going to be effective in evangelism you need patience in three areas. Patience with ourselves, patience with others, and patience with God.
We must be patient with ourselves because at times we falter in evangelism. We may rush a conversation, answer too abruptly, or become frustrated when the unbeliever doesn’t seem to see the importance of what we are sharing. Looking back, we realize what a horrible job we feel like we did in sharing our faith. The problem is we beat ourselves up and even allow Satan to discourage us from trying again. “After all,” Satan says, “you messed up the first time. Why try again?”
Patience with ourselves makes us realize that God forgives us, so why not forgive ourselves? Also, every experience is a learning opportunity and we will be better in evangelism because of what we learned. Patience with ourselves also helps us recognize that with time and experience we will keep improving in what we say and how we say it.
It takes patience with others because we must recognize that they are spiritually blinded. Second Corinthians 4:4 reminds us, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.” Until the Holy Spirit works in their lives, they will not understand what we are sharing. In fact, people who come to Christ often look back on what they said prior to conversion and remark, “I don’t believe I said that.” Often what we are sharing causes them to believe that we are just religious fanatics. We must be patient. One thing that helps in that area is reflecting on your own conversion and how people were patient with you.
Then we must also be patient with God. We bring Christ to people, but only God can bring people to Christ. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 6:47. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up the last day.” God will bring people to Christ, but it will be in His timing, not necessarily ours. Besides, you may be the fourth of fifteen people God is going to use.
Our prayer must be that God will bring them to Christ before it is forever too late. But patience with God is needed because He may be working in that person’s life in ways that you are not aware of. Several people whom I discovered that I was used to bring to Christ later said to me, “After we talked, guess what happened.” Then they shared how God used something that happened to remind them of what I shared and shortly thereafter they came to Christ. Patience with God is a necessity in evangelism.
Now let’s talk about the need for kindness.
By kindness, I mean the need to be merciful and have a good heart towards others. That is not only necessary in evangelism it is an absolute requirement. Luke 6:35-36 tell us, “For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
The person we are talking to is what Ephesians 2:1-2 calls “dead in trespasses and sins,” and one who walks “according to the course of this world, according to the of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” As slaves of Satan, they can be rude, selfish, uncaring, and insulting. They need our mercy and care, not our anger and criticism.
We must be kind towards the neighbor who never ceases to ask a favor of us but won’t do a favor for us. We must offer a good heart to the relative who commends us to our face but speaks wrongly about us behind our back. We must be merciful to the store clerk who tells us where what we need is located but makes it clear he doesn’t want to help us find it. It takes mercy to work with non-Christians who casually take God’s name in vain and seem to look for ways they can irritate us. Christ was kind towards the unthankful and the evil and wants us to do the same.
If we are going to love non-Christians, we must do it through our actions, not merely our talk. Patience and kindness are required. To encourage you to practice those, take a moment and list the ways God was kind and merciful to you before you came to Christ. Then offer a simple prayer saying, “The patience and kindness you exercised towards me, help me to do and grow in as I now share You with others.”
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