Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lowest Common Denominator

When adding and subtracting fractions, you first convert the fractions to the “lowest common denominator.” Next, convert the numerators so the values of the original fractions are maintained. Then simply add or subtract the numerators, placing the sum or difference above the common denominator and reduce the fraction to its simplest form. If you are confused, ask a fourth or fifth grader to show you.

Communicating effectively with different people works the same way: Find a basic expression all can understand and to which they can relate. Once that is established, use it to communicate and move forward together, not backward. That is how progress is made. Problems occur when individuals fail to value others, fail to value communicating with others, or assume their perspective is held in common or accepted by the others.

Effective evangelism or, simply put, telling others about Jesus, works on that principle. It is more than not using “church language” such as salvation and sanctification. It is understanding that the one sharing the good news is responsible for relating to the life of the person who is still headed for an eternity apart from God. Since all who belong to Christ were once in the other person’s position, it is much easier than expecting that person to identify with a position in God’s kingdom they have never experienced. That is one reason new Christians are so effective at telling others about Jesus: Their former life is so recent and they can easily identify with those with whom they are sharing.

Those who have been saints for a longer time may find it harder to communicate using a common denominator. Time in the church can desensitize a person away from the perspective of someone whose life is still fully governed by the values of the world apart God. It is much like clay that is cured. It know longer contains moisture so it no longer responds to external influences in the same way it did when water permeated it. But Christians can once again become sensitive to others without allowing the world’s value system to regain control.

There is a price to pay but it is not as scary as it sounds. The main price is love. Until you love those you want to reach, you will not effectively reach them. To love them, you must put them ahead of yourself. Jesus said something about that. Actually, He affirmed what the Old Testament said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This kind of love is not about having warm feelings towards others. It is about doing. As DC Talk once sang, “Love is a verb!” Since it is about doing, there must be specific things that can be done. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Go to them. Do not expect them to come to you. You are the one with the Great Commission, not them.
2. Spend time with them. This is not a new concept. The old adage is true. You spell love “T - I - M - E”.
3. Listen to them. Hear their story. As the saying goes, they will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
4. Carry their burden. Jesus usually earned the attention of His listeners by meeting their physical needs first.
5. Be patient. Be very patient. God knows who will not receive Him. You do not. Some hurts take a very long time to heal. Some people need a long time before they will begin to have hope that they can trust anyone again.
6. Stay humble. Remember you were once ruled by sin, too.

7. Show relevance. People without Jesus need to see how surrendering to Him will make their life better. It is very important to be honest. God does not promise to make us wealthy or popular. He promises to forgive us, make His home in us, and give us eternal life.