A young man came up to Jesus and asked him what on the surface seems like a simple question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
The man just teed it up for Jesus to give him a list of what he needs to do. It was a perfect opportunity to tell the man all he needed to know about eternal life and how to get it. The man left the door wide open for Jesus to give him the list.
Notice that Jesus did not immediately call the man to do anything.
We are really good at giving people stuff to do so that they progress in their faith. Pray this prayer. Read this book. Go to meetings, fill out this workbook, the list of things that we could advise people to do is a long one. We are trained to give a doctrinally correct list of what needs to be done to respond to the Gospel and inherit eternal life.
All the things that we might put on the are potentially good things, but Jesus has a higher priority for this man’s life.
Jesus asks the man, “why do you call me good?”
In other words, before Jesus deals with the behavior of the man, he knows he first needs to deal with the man at his core. Jesus needs to help the young man explore his motivations and what drives him.
The core issue is whether the man recognizes Jesus for who he is and will the man submit to Jesus.
In Evangelical circles (at least the ones that I’ve been in), this type of challenge to a potential convert is unlikely to happen. The danger in this is that without challenging who we are and, more importantly, why we are who we are, it is less likely that real spiritual growth will take place.
Perhaps instead of leading someone immediately in the sinner’s prayer, maybe we should follow Jesus’ example and probe a little deeper as to where our potential convert is coming from. Maybe we should seek to understand what it is that the man really wants and how the Gospel then speaks to what he really needs.
Maybe we should ask why.
“Everyone needs Jesus don’t they?,” you might ask. Yes, I believe they do, but they need the real Jesus who will meet them where the real need is, at the core of a man’s heart. Jesus needs to meet him where his wants, hurts and fears begin. Jesus wants to meet him where the fight vs. flight reflex starts.
I am not saying that if a man, woman or child wants to pray a prayer of repentance that we should hold them off until more questions are asked. What I am saying is that we should not rush someone into that prayer. Real evangelism has to be something more than four laws and “would you like to pray this prayer?”
Why?” is a hard and unsettling question. We don’t always know why, but perhaps we should start asking.