Mike Ruffin

Mike Ruffin

For outreach, hope works best

By Mike Ruffin
Religion Columnist

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“But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Our mission as Christians is to win others to Christ. But the tricky part about soul winning is that it is more of an art than a science. In other words, how we go about it can make all the difference in the world. For example, the easy thing to do is to point out to our children or friends the consequences of sinful living. How many times have we heard something like, “Don’t you realize that if you don’t change your ways, you’re going to end up in hell?”

No Christian will argue the point that true repentance is a must to stay out of hell. The problem is we need to let the Holy Spirit convict. Our mission is to point out the hope that can be found in knowing Christ.

Jesus modeled such a response for us in the story of the Samaritan woman he met at a well. You remember the story. It’s told in John 4. This woman appeared at a well just outside of the town in which she lived. Jesus knew who she was and how she had been living her life, including that she was living with a man to whom she was not married.

Jesus could have unloaded on her. After all, he was the Son of God. He had the opportunity to set the record straight about where she was headed if she continued to live the life she was living.

But notice in the story that there was no condemnation from the Lord – just concern. For starters, he simply approached her at the well and said, “Give me a drink.” The woman was surprised. She knew Jesus was Jewish and that Jews would have nothing to do with Samaritans. “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:7, 9).

What an icebreaker. It makes me wonder how many times we might be willing to reach out to those who would also be surprised that we stopped to even speak to them. In this case, the very fact that Jesus even spoke to the woman gave her pause to listen to what he had to say. He had her full attention.

Rather than succumb to the opportunity to use what he believed to condemn someone for how they were living, Jesus shows us that offering hope to the lost is the better choice. “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,” he told the woman, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. ... The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

Imagine that. Instead of pointing out that her lifestyle would lead to eternal death, Jesus opted to talk to her about how to achieve eternal life. He offered hope and not condemnation. He also offered her life rather than death.

A former pastor of mine offered a great analogy that helps make my point. If you try to grab an old bone from a dog, he will likely growl and snap at you. But if you throw him a steak, he’ll leave that bone and go for the steak every time.

If you want to win more souls, rethink your message. Lost people are searching for the answers that are troubling them in life. Just like the dog with that old bone, they don’t always realize that there is a better way to live. That’s what Isaiah meant when he said, “You are wearied in the length of your way; Yet you did not say, ‘There is no hope’” (Isaiah 57:10).

Write to Mike Ruffin at mike.ruffin@devotions.com. His website is devotions.com.