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December 22, 2016Evangelism & Discipleship

How to Respond When People Say ‘No’ to Jesus (Part 1)

InterVarsity evangelist offers words of encouragement
How to Respond When People Say ‘No’ to Jesus (Part 1)

Getting up the nerve to share Jesus with others around us takes all the courage we can muster. We pray and ask God for wisdom, we review what we’ll say in our minds and perhaps a few Bible verses, and with palpitations in our chest, we begin to share Jesus.

For many Christians, it is the hardest thing they do. Sharing Jesus with others puts us at both God’s mercy as well as the mercy of those with whom we share. One of the most challenging things in this exercise of faith often comes when the person we are sharing with rejects the good news.

A ‘no’ to Jesus can feel like a failure to us; it can call into question whether or not God is with us, leading us, empowering us as we share Jesus. Additionally, for Christians, it is hard to imagine how people could say ‘no’ to such a great message and promise of forgiveness, love, and new life. What we do with a ‘no’ to Jesus is perhaps the most important exercise of faith in our witness.

Here are some words of encouragement and guidance on how to respond when people say no to Jesus.

#1. Realize Your Role

Jesus sends us out as His witnesses to faithfully and powerfully proclaim Him. He does not promise positive results. In fact, rejection ought to be expected as a normal part of faithful witness. We are successful in evangelism if we proclaim lovingly and truthfully the gospel.

Success in evangelism isn’t counted by people’s response. A ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ is not under our control. To be sure, we can learn to do a better job—to be more prophetic, more pastoral, more accurate, more persuasive, but in the end a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is under the control of the person hearing.

Our job is to hold forth Jesus.

#2. Reassure the Person

Frequently, when the person we are sharing with has a relationship with us, the pressure and awkwardness of a religious conversation weighs on him or her as much as it does on us. When a person ultimately says ‘no’ to Jesus, it can feel like he or she is saying no to us as well. As we tell our mothers and siblings, life-long friends, co-workers, and neighbors about Jesus, there will naturally be tension because the relationship has value.

Introducing Jesus into any relationship has the potential to forever alter (and sometimes end) that relationship. As people reject Jesus, we often need to reassure them that we will remain committed to them regardless of how they respond. This can not only relieve some of the pressure and awkwardness from our witness, but also leave the door open for future opportunities.

#3. Reassess the Conversation

Many times, as we explain the gospel and invite someone to respond positively to Jesus, we have a limited understanding of what is actually going on in his or her head and heart. When a person says ‘no’ to Jesus, it should not always immediately end our efforts. We need to stop and reassess the conversation.

When someone rejects the entire message or parts of the message, we need to get into the weeds about what exactly he or she responding negatively to. What is being rejected can be an incorrect understanding of what was presented, an easily-corrected misapplication, or a significant block such as a resistance to the Lordship of Jesus or an unwillingness to believe a critical truth aspect of the gospel.

Reassessing the tone of the conversation is important as well. Often, when sharing Jesus, there are many other factors in play outside of the believability of the gospel. For many, a ‘yes’ to Jesus is perceived as a rejection of one’s heritage, a rejection of one’s family, or a rejection of a way of life (this is frequently the perception of those coming from other religious backgrounds). Reassessing the content of the conversation and the other social and cultural factors is important in processing a response to Jesus with others.

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How to Respond When People Say ‘No’ to Jesus (Part 1)