“Yeah, sometimes you just have to take the long view.”
Chris and I were talking about a recent spiritual conversation of mine with a man from Iran. Chris had been at the gathering where this conversation had taken place and he knew the Iranian man, as well. In fact, Chris had also had spiritual conversations with the man, so he understood my comments. Though Iranian, the man, who we will call Ahmet, confessed that he was not a Muslim. He described himself as “spiritual, but not religious.” In the course of our conversation he had explained that direct contradictions in the Koran are not actually contradictions, because you have to understand the “mystical meaning behind the words.” He also said with all sincerity that someone who pursues Jesus Christ and another person who worships Allah can be on the exact same path, it’s just that “the paths have different labels.” I was describing the difficulty of the dialogue, because Ahmet’s position was always changing and he would not accept anything as objective. All was subjective. The choice of religions was “whatever works for you,” and Ahmet made the analogy with buying a car. “You buy a car that fits your needs and that car is right for you; but I choose a different car because that is the right car for me and my needs. Religions are like that. You pick the one that is right for you.” Ahmet did acknowledge that, as with selecting an automobile, it would be good to “test drive” a number of religions to be sure that you had the right one, so the person who had “test driven” the most religions would have the best chance of selecting the one that was right for him.
And so it went. “Chris, it was like trying to push against jello. He didn’t believe in any objective truth at all and yet made spectacular claims about things that required immense leaps of faith based on no evidence at all. And he was not bothered by his inconsistencies or his illogic.”
Chris replied, “I know what you mean. It is difficult having discussions with people like that, who are really much more post-modern in their thinking than they are Muslim. You just have to take the long view.”
So what is this “long view?” What did Chris mean by his statement? Here’s what I think he meant. First, when engaged in the evangelistic enterprise, realize that it often requires a lot of seed to be scattered on many fields before there is a harvest. “Taking the long view” means that I will be faithful in sowing the seed over the long haul even if there appears to be no result, confident that the Lord will reap the harvest that He intends to harvest through my efforts.
Second, “taking the long view” means that, when engaged in difficult gospel conversations that seem to be going nowhere, you should try to relax and enjoy the conversation. Relax knowing that you do not have to win the argument or make profound points. “Taking the long view” means making sure that, if the gospel message is clear and true to the Scriptures and if you have not compromised the gospel to make it more “successful,” then you can trust that the Lord will use your offering of the gospel exactly as He chooses. What do I lose if my offering of the gospel is rejected or ridiculed or ignored? Nothing. I have wasted nothing in this effort and I have offered a perishing soul salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, I think that “taking the long view” means trusting that the Lord is in charge of the day of salvation and that the cynic and the one with circular, illogical reasoning today may tomorrow see a vision of Jesus and beg you to tell him how he can be saved. So “take the long view” in your evangelism.
One parting thought on this is that “taking the long view” must not morph into complacency and into a gospel with no zeal and no appeal and no urgency. There is a balance required in evangelism that allows you to “take the long view” so that you can avoid excessive disappointment in your evangelism and continue to press on, but that also keeps you alert for a gospel spark in your hearers and keeps you fiery in your appeal and your persuasion. “Taking the long view” can never lapse into passivity and coolness when the eternal destinies of men and women hang in the balance. So, “take the long view” and continue with unashamed vigor to call men and women to faith in the only Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ.
SDG rmb 6/17/2019