Have you ever watched a minor accident take place? I don’t mean something drastic like a car accident or an industrial accident, but more like a situation where someone else has a fall, spills something, or ends up breaking something important. I think that we’ve all witnessed cases like this. Some observers describe these events as happening in slow motion, as we realize what is about to take place, and then see it unfold as we had feared. The stretched-out cable or lump in the rug catches the foot of the person with the coffee and bagel, for instance, and their breakfast flies forward into the person walking in front of them. Or, the jar of condiments sitting on the edge of the table gets elbowed during the meal, and crashes to the floor.
I’m sure that sometimes this elicits malicious laughter, but when we are listening to a better nature (our new creation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 or Galatians 6:15), we usually step forward to help patch up or clean up the consequences of this accident.
What about those times where we see the problem coming, though, and have the opportunity to address it before it causes an accident? How about when we see the broken stair, or see the red light ahead while riding in the car as a passenger? If we have the means to say something, or to do something about the risk (which, I realize, is not always the case), I think that most of us would agree that taking action before someone gets hurt (or something gets damaged) is the kind thing to do. Imagine the anger that a friend might feel towards us if they were seriously injured, embarrassed, or stuck with a costly bill, and found out that we could have easily prevented the problem.
Consider the following passage from the Gospel of John:
However, no one was speaking openly about Him, for fear of the Jews.
John 7:13 NASB2020
If you’ve gotten to know Jesus Christ, I suspect that you’ve realized that He is the most important person for anyone to meet and become friends with. Certainly, there’s the life-changing opportunity to be reconciled to God, but followers of Jesus also know that the blessings and benefits of listening to Him start long before they reach Heaven.
When we see others who don’t even know about Jesus (much less having gotten to know Him personally), it’s like watching someone climbing a ladder and seeing a cracked rung above them. Or, it’s like driving back on a long rural road, after finding out that it is closed several miles up (with no other places to stop), and encountering someone driving the other way. If we truly love these people, we can warn the first person that they’re about to suffer injury, and let the second person know that they won’t get anywhere down the road that they are on.
This isn’t about judging anyone. There’s no vengeance in telling someone about Jesus, just like warning someone about to make a serious error isn’t harsh when they had no idea what they were about to get into. This is different than telling someone that they are stupid or wrong, but – other than sharing the fact that everyone sins – that negative attitude should have nothing to do with telling other people about Jesus, anyway. Like sharing some great new “life hack” that you just learned, the good news about Jesus is something that we should share freely with others, so that they don’t have to keep living the hard way.
Now, if you warn someone about danger, or an accident waiting to happen, they might still proceed along their original path. Perhaps they don’t believe you, or they want to prove something. Maybe they agree that something bad might happen if they continue doing what they are doing, but they expect a benefit (rightly or wrongly) that is greater than the harm.
Regrettably, the same is true when we share the good news about Jesus. There are plenty of reasons that someone might ignore it (although there are no good reasons to do so). However, if we have done our part to help someone avoid a tragic mistake, there are some decisions we cannot make for them. So, if time still permits, we pick them up after the inevitable occurs (like Jesus did for Peter in Matthew 14:28-33), and – rather than condemning them for their past choices – continue to offer a better way.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.