If you ask anyone the simple question, “How are you,” you can anticipate their one word answer. They will say, “fine.” Is their answer true and accurate, usually not? We have all been conditioned to give this answer. It is easy to say. We anticipate that the person who is asking us the question is only making small talk. We assume they really don’t care. Finally, it is often unpleasant to talk about the things that are weighing heavy on our heart so we just say “fine,” to end the conversation. How can we bring this conversation to a more Christ-like outcome? Please read more.
Jesus’ entire public ministry was outward focused. He cared about others and their pains and problems. He met them where they were and almost always dealt with their physical issues before addressing the spiritual ones.
In John 9:1-41, we read about Jesus healing the physical needs of the blind man. In John 4:4-42, we see Jesus finding common ground with the woman at the well. They were both thirsty. He did not jump right into a theological conversation. He talked to her about their common thirst for water. Finally, we can see in John 8:10-11, that Jesus showed compassion and love before calling the adulterous woman, who was about to be stoned, to turn away from her sinful way of living.
We have much to learn from these examples. They can really help us in our daily interactions with others. Not long ago my parish adopted a new parish mission. The mission is as follows: “We are a joyful Catholic Community of disciples of Jesus Christ, moved by love, to seek the lost and the broken and bring them home.”
If you substitute the word “Christian” for the word “Catholic” in the mission statement above, I hope you will agree with me that this could be the mission for all Christians. If we accept this mission, we must focus on three things. First, we must respond with love. Second, we must accept that people we encounter both inside and outside of our church walls are broken and lost. And finally, we must understand where home is. I believe that home does not mean that our primary objective is to bring everyone to our church. No, home means we are called to bring everyone to Jesus.
Recognizing that all people are at times lost and broken, we should strive to respond like Jesus did. We want our actions and words to be moved by love. God’s love for us breathes meaning into our lives. We are called to go out as missional people to share that love with others. Love becomes the bridge between us and those that we encounter who are hurting and lost.
If we want to meet people where they are in their brokenness, we need to help those people feel comfortable enough to share their concerns and feelings with us. We must help them take their “I am fine” mask off. We do this by asking probing questions.
Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly in his series called BEST LENT EVER uses the analogy of The Good Doctor. He makes the point that a doctor must ask a number of probing questions to determine the patient’s problem before he recommends any type of treatment.
Far too often, when we encounter people who are lost or broken in some way, we jump right into a detailed explanation of Jesus, the Bible, or the dogmas of our faith. If we want to be effective evangelizers, we need to become disciples of how Jesus interacted with those He encountered. Let’s first show that we care. Let’s try to find a common ground from which we can develop a relationship. Let’s try to help them with any physical needs first. Let’s demonstrate love and compassion. And let’s do all of these things before diving headlong into the theological stuff. We must remind ourselves that people will care about what we know, if they know first that we care.
The next time you encounter someone, whether it is on your way out of the church after the Sunday service, in a grocery store, at a sporting event, or just walking your dog in your neighborhood, try asking them this two part question. First ask them “How are you.” They likely will say “fine.” Follow your first question up with these words, “No, How are you, I really care?”
Once they know you care and that you are not just making small talk, their second answer will almost never be “fine.” They almost certainly will share something with you about how things are really going in their lives. Once they do, you can attempt to meet them on some common ground, care for their needs, show them love and in doing so, you will lead them to Christ.
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to live and to love as your Son Jesus did. Help me to meet people in their brokenness and lead them home to you, Amen!
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