What makes it so hard to talk to non-believers about Easter?
If you’re anything like me, even the thought of talking to a neighbor, colleague or classmate about the death and resurrection of Jesus makes you anxious. You feel a tension in your stomach and your mind searches for reasons why this just is not a safe thing to do.
That tension and anxiety is real. You cannot just dismiss it. But where does it come from?
Name the fears you need to conquer
I used to train university students in talking with others about God. One idea I heard frequently during that time was that their fear had to do with being asked questions they would not have answers to.
The suggestion was that being caught without an answer to a non-believing friend’s question was the worst thing that could happen. So we set about trying to solve that problem.
We trained students to listen well, and to understand the gospel and their own experience of it. That way they were ready when spiritual conversations came their way.
We encouraged them to research the answers to the most frequently asked questions about our faith. And we reminded them that, if all else failed, it was OK to simply say they did not know the answer to a question. They could offer to explore it together with that person.
But I’m going to be honest. I do not think for most Christians the deepest fear about sharing the gospel is really being unable to answer a tricky question. It seems far more likely to me that our deepest fear in evangelism is one of our deepest fears in the rest of life — like rejection or humiliation.
We do not want to talk to the non-believing people in our lives about Easter because it’s very difficult to do so without talking about awkward things like Jesus’ death, why it was necessary, and the fact that we actually believe he came back from the dead.
And of course this all means eventually talking about the topic which is most likely to alienate non-believers. That topic is sin — humanity’s, ours and of course — theirs.
Overcoming our fears of talking about Easter starts with being honest with each other about what we’re really afraid of. We’re afraid that people might reject us, mock us or judge us.
Here’s the bad new: they might really do all of those things.
So what’s the good news?
Remember the rewards as you assess the risks
My son’s risk radar is highly active. He often has strong feelings of anxiety about doing new things because he can already imagine how something might go wrong.
So what’s my job as his dad? Should I tell him there’s no way he’ll fail? That none of his fears will come true? Should I tell him that Daddy is certain there’s nothing to be afraid of?
I do not think so. God made him cautious and actually surprisingly wise for an almost 8-year-old. But I do not want my son missing out on new experiences just because he does not know how they’ll turn out.
So instead of telling him there’s nothing to be afraid of, I try to enter into his fear and acknowledge it. But then I help him see what he’ll be missing out on if he does not try something. That way he can be the one to decide whether the potential rewards make the possible risks worthwhile.
When we talk to non-believers about how our lives have been transformed by Jesus, the risks are real. But the rewards are potentially amazing, potentially incredible.
When we take the risk of talking about Jesus — at Easter or any other time — we place ourselves in a position to be used by God to change someone else’s life. We get to see God at work and know that we’re a part of it.
When we obey Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) — we are transformed. Relationships are built on trust. So when we trust God in scary situations we can expect our relationship with him to deepen.
If you only take one thing away from this blog post let it be this:
We are not meant to wait until we reach some specific point of maturity as Christians before telling others about our amazing God. Training is important. Maturity is important. But fundamentally, we do not “grow and then go.” We grow as we go to the people who do not yet know Jesus.
Hear me correctly, please. Sharing our faith is not the only way to grow as a Christian.
But there is a kind of growth that only happens as we put our reputation, our fear of rejection, and our relationships with people we care about, in the safe hands of our God. As we give ourselves to God in those deep and risky ways, we experience life as he intended.
That’s why Jesus’ command to “Go” is accompanied by a promise: “And surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
Talking about Easter deepens our experience of it
The key moments in the Easter story — the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — also point to what happens in our lives as believers. In order to experience new life as God intends it, something in us has to die.
And in my experience that’s not a one-time thing. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus taking up his cross looked like willingly enduring the rejection of people, because he was not defined by their opinion of him.
Jesus’ choice on the first Easter weekend presents a real challenge to me. Am I willing to sacrifice my attachment to what I hope others think of me, because I am defined instead by what God thinks of me? Sometimes yes, and sadly sometimes no.
So for you personally, what has to die in you in order for you to experience the fullness of God? Maybe it’s your addiction to the respect of others. Or is it the carefully crafted image of yourself that you project.
I was born again the day I handed the keys to my life over to Jesus and told him I did not want them back. But every day I face choices about whether to experience my new life fully, by living according to his agenda, or to accept second best by reverting back to my agenda.
Talking about Easter is hard. Christmas feels like a much less loaded topic for conversation. It’s just good news right? Jesus comes as a baby, lots of people celebrate, nothing too scary for the kids.
The Easter narrative contains some really dark material. Trusted friends betraying a good man. An unfair arrest and trial. Torture. A brutal death. It’s tempting to just skip to Easter Sunday as fast as we can.
But Easter Sunday makes no sense without the Friday and Saturday. Why did Christ choose to die? What did he give up? What did he go through between his death and his resurrection?
Some things are true of all humans. We were made to be known, and we long to be accepted. And it’s the lack of those things that creates so much pain for so many people.
So when people hear about someone giving up everything in order to know them, that’s good news. It might be hard news when we understand what Jesus went through to win our freedom, and why that was necessary. But it’s good news. Really good news.
Do not assume they are not curious
Sometimes I’m guilty of deciding for other people whether they want to talk to me about spiritual things. Do you know what I mean?
But recently I keep finding myself in spiritual conversations with people I would have put on the “definitely not interested” list. And I read more and more stories about our culture becoming spiritually open. They might not define “spiritual” the same way I do. But it’s still an opportunity to engage with people who agree that life needs to have meaning, and that meaning does not seem to be found in only what we can see, do or own.
So maybe you just need to start simple.
Think about the people you are focused on, maybe those you have logged in the MissionHub app. Could you begin by asking them what they’re doing over the Easter weekend? Or asking if their family does anything related to the religious holiday itself?
They might say no in a way that slams the conversational door firmly shut. Or they might answer, and then ask you the same question in return.
If someone does ask you what you’re doing for Easter, what are you going to say? It’s worth thinking about so that when the moment arrives you do not panic and accidentally turn on the verbal firehose.
In one sense, Easter is the story of a man taking the ultimate step of faith. Without his step of faith none of us could take our own.
So here are some practical steps for overcoming your fears of talking about Easter this year.
- Identify people in your life you might have a conversation with about Easter. I do this in my journal, on notecards and Post-its, but also in the MissionHub app.
- Think about where those people are on their spiritual journey, and what that means for how you might start a conversation with them.
- Pray and ask God for divine opportunities with these people. As you pray you become spiritually “tuned” toward those relationships. You’ll see openings for conversations.
Trust that God is doing something in the lives of those people, whether you are doing anything or not. But if you’re taking a step of faith with them, you will know you’re a part of what God’s doing, and you’ll sense his pleasure.
As a father I have to remind my son that whatever he chooses to do in a situation, my love for him will not change. He needs to know that I love and accept him whether he takes his step of faith or not. I only know to do that with my son because I’ve learned it from my Heavenly Father.
The assurance of God’s love and acceptance allows us to take steps of faith in relational security. And in so doing, we become more of whom God means us to be.
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