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Evangelism of the Heart

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Whoever is not against us is for us.

Mark 9:40

Over the last few months I have been reading around Celtic Christianity and Spirituality. Immersing myself in the stories of Cuthbert in Northumbria, Brendan and Patrick in Ireland and David in Wales. I recently came across an old Celtic story which has caused me to think.

A young desert Christian came across a Celtic pagan priest who worshiped idols. The young Christian immediately went on the attack. Calling the priest an idolater and demon worshiper. The priest furious at the insults turned on the young Christian beating him with his staff and leaving him for dead.

A little further on the same priest met an old desert Christian who greeted him and spoke to him warmly and welcomed him. Astonished the pagan priest asked, ‘what good do you see in me that you greet me so warmly?’ The Old Christian replied, ‘I saw you wearing yourself out, but it was all in vain. I prayed to God to grant you peace.’ The pagan priest responded, ‘I am touched by the way you have greeted me and treated me, a pagan. And I realise you come from God. After that the priest was so moved by the kindness of the old man, he joined a monastic order and persuades other pagans to come to and accept Christianity.

Dwelling on this story I realised that we should seek to welcome someone of another faith, or in these days a person of no faith as a person in their own right, and to establish a relationship, before engaging in a conversation about faith and never to put them down or belittle them.

So often we Christians demonise people of other faiths and of no faith and illustrate differences in beliefs only by referring to the worst aberrations of the other religion, whilst at the same time disregarding the aberrations of Christianity.

We could be like the young Christian in this story evangelising by picking a fight with the non-Christian, demonising them, filling them with hell fire and brimstone, rather like the street preachers of today, standing on street corners, bible in hand, feeling superior preaching their message of ‘turn or burn.’ It is likely to meet with the same response as the young Christian in this story. Such behaviour only serves to anger an alienate the hearer of the message.

Or we could be like the old Christian whose evangelism was an evangelism of the heart. An evangelism of love and kindness, seeing the other person as a child of God. A person equal in status to himself. A person not to be put down or criticised. A person to whom we should with all humility show kindness, warmth and hospitality. It is this evangelism from the heart that will draw people to God and come to know the wonderful presence of Christ.

I leave you with this prayer. Read it slowly, savouring every word. Contemplate what the prayer is saying to you line by line:

O Christ, You had compassion on the crowds.

You drew people to yourself.

You repelled none who knew they were needy.

Grant us hearts like Yours,

Hearts that go out in genuine greeting,

In humble welcome,

Till, in the fellowship of sharing,

Souls are drawn to you.

Every Blessing

Rob Hunter

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