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When you first notice it, it is fascinating. Watching Jesus interact with people, as recorded for us in the Gospels, we see how he shares “the good news” with those he meets. And his variety in sharing the truth about how people must come to find life in him is startling.

Most of those who have been in “church life” for any length of time end up with a perspective as to how to “share the Gospel.” We learn a particular way to tell the “good news” about Jesus. It’s not that such models or templates (like “The Four Spiritual Laws” or “The Romans Road”) are not helpful. It’s just that we often end up sharing the truth with others in an identical way even when the people we are talking to are not living life in identical ways.

Jesus speaks to one man, Nicodemus, about being “born again.” But contemporary Christians use that language broadly, speaking to varied individuals with the language Jesus used for one. With a Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke about living water. With a struggling rich young man, Jesus talked about commandments and riches. Although Jesus was clear about what was essential in his message–that people rightly relate to him so that they might experience life with God–this message of grace came in varied ways designed to reach the particular person to whom Jesus was speaking.

I believe this is the idea behind Paul’s words to the Colossians about their “sharing the faith” with others.

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

Whenever we speak, we should be alert to the possibility of sharing the Gospel, making most of each exchange. In so doing, we need to be sensitive to flavor all such conversations with grace. The last phrase in this short encouragement highlights the “particularization” of the message that we see in Jesus.

We need to think well about how we should respond to each person as a particular individual. Although the Gospel is a “one truth for all people” message, the way the Gospel comes home to someone, the way the truth first breaks into his or her heart, the particular aspect of Jesus’ character and care and love reaches a heart, is not a “one size fits all” endeavor.

To the weary one, Jesus is the one who gives rest. To the spiritually dry, Jesus offers living water. To the religious “doer,” Jesus calls for new birth. For the hard-working rules keeper, Jesus invites extravagant abandonment to himself. To the spiritually bound, Jesus extends freedom. To those who cannot see spiritual realities, Jesus provides new sight.

Ultimately, every individual on the planet needs to meet and know this Jesus and experience the life he alone can offer. But that initial introduction to Jesus–that might come in a variety of ways. That might come through grace individualized for the need of the moment, for the sake of the one who needs to hear.


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