“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased…Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” Isaiah 42:1-3
These are the words of the prophet, Isaiah, speaking about the coming of Jesus and how he will reach out to people. Jesus did not shout or raise his voice in the street to proclaim the kingdom of God. His concern was for the broken hearted, the bruised reed. He would not snuff out the smoldering faith of the weak or downtrodden.
For many of us when we hear the word evangelization, we conjure up images of someone handing out Christian tracks on a street corner, a televangelist in a mega church, or a famous preacher in a large stadium. But Jesus did not do the usual things we might think of as evangelization. Jesus simply responded with compassion and mercy.
Although these words were intended by Isaiah for Jesus, they are also applicable to us, his followers. The following story illustrates how this might work. The names have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Jerry worked in a medical office and wasn’t feeling well. He asked his boss, Karen, who oversees the administrative staff, if he could have the rest of the day off. When Karen asked what was wrong, Jerry offered a rather vague response. Karen continued to probe, asking if he would be returning tomorrow. Jerry said he didn’t know. Karen asked if there was something wrong and Jerry said no. She invited him to sit down and he started to share that nothing was going right in his life. He wanted to get married to the woman he was living with, but she was talking about moving out. He found it difficult to have enough time for his two small children. He seemed quite despondent to Karen.
As he was leaving, Karen asked if she could make a suggestion. He said yes. “When you go home, go into your bedroom, close the door, kneel down and ask Jesus to come into your life and help you.” Jerry said, “I’ve tried church.” Karen said, “I am not talking about church, I’m just saying that if you offer that prayer, Jesus will not refuse you, and things will start to change.”
Sometime later, Karen noticed that Jerry seemed to be happier and had a more positive attitude. She asked how he was doing. He smiled, and said, “I did what you suggested and something did happen. I started to feel warm all over when I prayed. Later, I bought a Bible and started reading it. I bought a Children’s Bible and started reading the stories to my kids. We have started to go to church and my partner and I are moving toward marriage.”
You will notice that Karen did not judge Jerry or preach to him. She gave him an opportunity to talk, she listened, she empathized, and she asked if she could make a suggestion. She related to him as Jesus would. A “bruised reed” she did not break.
How do you evangelize — with words of persuasion and argument, or with empathy, mercy, and confident in the work of the Holy Spirit?