There are two kinds of people in the world.
Those who need to know Christ, and
those who need to know Him better.
Mankind has always had a desire to label people, to understand, and to relate to them differently depending upon the label chosen. The obvious differences are those of nationality, race and gender. In addition to these, temperament theory found its expression in the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), and in Galen (AD 129-200). The latter differentiated people into four types: sanguine (optimistic and social), choleric (short-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful). In our modern times, Dr. Gary Smalley used animal characteristics to define individuals as being beavers, otters, lions or golden retrievers. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MPTI) gives us sixteen personality types such as the idealist, and the performer etc. Perhaps the most interesting one I have heard, however, is one coined by one of my medical partners. He stated that, in his opinion, there were two kinds of people in the world, those who have headaches and those who give other people headaches!
Returning again to Jim’s statement, I am impressed with the importance of how we view others. Our assessment of who they are and what they are like is a strong determinant of how we interact with them. Viewing people as either needing to know Christ or needing to know Him better will produce intentionality in our relationships with them. As we keep this question “Does this person know Christ?” before us daily, we are better able to discern the Lord’s will in our interaction with them.
The call of Christ to those who did not yet know Him is found in Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This process of others coming to Christ is significantly enhanced when the invisible Christ is made visible in our lives. He should be demonstrated before he is declared. His Grace needs to reach through our lives to others. In describing this Grace, Ken Bailey refers to it as the “the costly demonstration of unexpected love.” Their response to love extended to them not only helps our understanding of where they are spiritually but usually provides a fertile soil in which the seed of the Gospel may grow. As an example of this, I recall a house in our neighborhood which had stood empty all spring and well into the summer. The lawn, in which the former owner had a great deal of pride, was a well manicured blue grass lawn. It was a spot of beauty on our street. As the summer progressed, however, it began to dry up and turn brown. The house had not yet been sold and no one knew who would move into the house. One of the neighbors, out of concern for the new owners, extended a hose from their house and began to water the lawn regularly. When the newcomers arrived and learned of this, they were deeply thankful and surprised that anyone would run up their own water bill to water the lawn of someone they had never met! Their response to this grace extended to them developed into an openness to their involvement in a Bible study the following year. Although the example of watering the lawn was a very small deed, it was used by the Lord to clarify where the new owners were spiritually and to help them on their journey with Him.
Not only the demonstration, but the declaration of our relationship with Christ will become more natural as we view others from a standpoint of whether they need to know Him or to know him better. It should motivate us to be open and vulnerable with others, sharing naturally what the Lord has done for us, His answers to prayer and the encouragement and peace that walking with Him provides each day. As John Ridgway states, “If your natural life is spiritual, then you can let your spiritual life be natural.” Sharing answers to prayer or offering to pray for them will often give us a clue as to where they are spiritually.
We may not always be able to discern where people are in their spiritual understanding but that does not prevent us from providing what they need in their lives. A patient of mine returned to our city following extensive surgery in another part of the country. I had heard that he had “a spiritual experience” of some type while he was away but in my conversations with him I was unable to tell if he had come to know Christ. We invited him and his wife to a series of Bible studies in which we were involved at the time and for the next several years we were able to see spiritual growth made evident in their lives. Romans 10:17 states “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV) This verse points to the value of exposing those who do not yet know Christ to the word of God. Acts 20:32 points out that the word of God is also of paramount importance in enabling us to know Him better. “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Although it is helpful to know where people are spiritually in their understanding of Christ and in their response to Him, it is also of benefit to realize that the Holy Spirit uses the same tools to bring people to Christ that He does to provide growth in their lives. These are the word of God, prayer, individual lives, the body of Christ and circumstances. The one difference, of course, is that the non-believer does not, as yet, have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
Knowing that everyone we meet either needs to know Christ or to know Him better enables us to focus on the word of God, prayer, and our relationships with these individuals to the end that we are able to say the following with the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:28-29. (Phillips Translation) “So naturally we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me.”
In Christ, Richard Spann