24 March 2022

Receiving not our witness.

John 3.11.

Sometimes you share the gospel with someone… and they’re not interested.

To be fair, sometimes they didn’t ask you to share the gospel: You just kinda imposed it on them. “Lemme tell you about Jesus,” and before they could agree or say “No thank you,” off you went. Or you presented the gospel as, “If you were to die this very minute, do you know whether you’d be in heaven?”—as if that’s the only thing the gospel is: Afterlife insurance.

Whether you did it right, or did it intrusively, or emphasized popular dark Christian fears instead of good news: They’re not interested. You offer to lead ’em in the sinner’s prayer; they don’t care to pray that. You invite ’em to church; they’re not coming. No thank you. Pass. I’m happy with how things are.

Some Christians take this rejection kinda hard. Especially when, for various reasons, they were sure they were gonna lead this person to Jesus. Or really wanted to. Or thought they heard the Holy Spirit tell them to share Jesus. Others of them take every rejection hard, as if every no is a personal defeat in spiritual hand-to-hand combat with Satan itself.

And when they take it hard, they tend to get petty about it. And quote today’s out-of-context scripture to justify themselves: “We shared the gospel, but they didn’t wanna hear it. They wouldn’t receive our witness.” Sometimes they straight-up quote the entire verse.

John 3.11 KJV
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

The verse isn’t about evangelism. It’s about Jesus teaching the Galileans and Judeans about himself and God, but the Judeans—particularly the Judean leadership—didn’t care to hear him, because they had their own ideas about how Messiah and God work. There was one Judean senator who wanted to hear him out, and he’s the guy to whom Jesus said this. The rest weren’t receptive.

True, when we talk about Jesus with other people, a number of ’em likewise have their own ideas about who Jesus is, and don’t wanna hear our views because they “don’t follow organized religion.” They prefer how they organized things. Only in these cases are we even approaching the same thing Jesus is speaking of in John 3.11.

The rest of the time, it’s just people who dismissed the gospel. And in quoting this scripture, we’re being such drama queens about it. Calm down, little snowflake. You need to learn to deal with rejection better.

Take no for an answer.

First of all, practice some basic human courtesy: Before you drop the gospel on people, ask them whether you can share it.

Look at it from their point of view. Say you’re outside a restaurant, waiting for your Uber, and someone comes up to you and wants to tell you all about how Herbalife sells only the best vitamins. And you don’t care to hear it, but she simply won’t stop her sales pitch. Annoying and intrusive, isn’t it? Makes you want to buy Herbalife from her even less, doesn’t it? Makes you want to say no, just to get some petty revenge on her for bugging you.

Yep, that’s how pagans feel when you try to cram the gospel down their throats. So don’t push it on ’em! Ask first.

If they’re not interested, it’s okay. They’re not ready yet to hear it. The Holy Spirit is either still getting ’em ready… or they’re fighting him, and he’s gotta win first. Either way, your presentation isn’t gonna get anywhere. You didn’t miss an opportunity. There was no opportunity.

That whole “Don’t take no for an answer” mentality Christians have swiped from pushy salespeople? Wholly inappropriate for sharing the gospel. We’re supposed to be kind. An unkind gospel presentation isn’t gonna produce kind converts… and that leads us to a whole other common problem, which I won’t get into here.

If people tell you no, don’t share the gospel. Just tell ’em you’re available if they later have any questions. Keep being kind and friendly. Maybe that friendliness will make ’em think, “Okay, maybe they actually do know something about Jesus,” and change their mind—sooner than you expect. It’s happened to me. But yeah, maybe it’ll do nothing. Be kind either way. The ends never justify bad fruit.

In this way, you won’t waste your time and theirs, presenting a gospel which they’re ultimately gonna reject. And then you’re gonna feel bad and annoyed because you wanted your gospel presentation to pay off, and they’re gonna feel bad and annoyed because you imposed yourself on them. Bad feelings all around.

Plus you’re gonna justify yourself by misquoting John 3.11 to yourself and others, and maybe throw in that verse about God’s word not returning void. Is 55.11 Really, there’s enough bible abuse out there, without you adding to it.

As for them: You forced ’em to either accept or reject the gospel, and they rejected it. You may not realize this: If you never pushed it on them, they would never have formally rejected it. If they rejected it before, they would never have formally rejected it twice. Y’see the more they reject it, the more they condition themselves to reject it again in the future. The more resistant they get to the Holy Spirit when he’s trying to get ’em to embrace it.

I know; this sounds a little counterintuitive. But it’s true: Accepting their no, and not sharing the gospel just yet, has a very good chance of helping them accept the gospel later.

So stop trying to rack up heavenly evangelism points, and accept no for an answer. It’s usually the wisest choice.