As you may have assumed from my poor grammar, I usually just write blogs quickly and post them. I give it one proof-read and then post. I normally don't do much re-writing in my blogs if I ever do, it's just re-writing a paragraph here or a sentence here.
This is my fourth time sitting down to start from scratch to write this following subject. I think it's because I am really understanding more the weight and importance this has. My blogs are not always successful of getting a point across, even my last blog was just explaining what I meant in the blog before it.
I wrote a blog called "Filtered Doggy Water" explaining how if we understand the needs of those around us we can love and serve them better. I received a comment on my blog saying how they agreed with my point but also asked me, "what is more important [feeding] their bellies or their souls?"
I think anyone that claims Christianity should know what we should be caring about, which is their souls, of course. But I don't think it's choose one or the other. I think you can obviously feed someone without caring for their souls. But I don't think you can care for someone's soul without loving them and meeting their needs.
People have asked me if I agree with witnessing, like going up to people on the street or complete strangers and saying something like "Jesus loves you and died for you so you can have forgiveness". I agree with witnessing, but I don't think the definition of witnessing is or should be limited to such a one dimensional tactic. But like everything, there is a time and place for it. I just don't think that tactic fits the American culture of today. I will explain.
In order to truly care about someone's soul and want to really speak truth to them, it's very important to know their culture and also not assume their knowledge or lack of knowledge. For example, going up to anyone and saying that Albany is the capitol of New York, assumes that they didn't know that in the first place, which can be viewed as an insult to them. It also shows that we didn't care enough to know their background we just cared about pushing our agenda, which is also insulting. Either side of that situation pushes people away from us and eventually God. I think witnessing requires us to be sensitive enough to at least know the culture. Witnessing in Bolivia, China, Russia or America needs to be approached with direction from the Holy Spirit which naturally is in love. Since my 'mission field' is America I need to not be so separated from the people that I don't know how to connect with them.*
I have been to 46 states and I have yet to meet an American that not only has heard of Jesus but has formed their own opinion on who/what he is. Again, from the people I have met in my travels, philosophy and bible majors are very common, I've lots of ministry majors, bible majors, pastor's kids, missionary kids all that don't want anything to do with God. The problem with America is not that they haven't heard enough about Jesus but that they haven't heard enough truth about Jesus. There are many people preaching different gospels or just using Jesus' name to get the things they need and are very successful at it. There are people everyday using God's name to do ungodly things. People using Jesus' name to guilt their children into certain acts, there are people using Jesus' name to steal money from a group of people, the list goes on. Without getting into specifics I think it's safe to say that if you meet an American and mention Jesus, it sometimes hits a sore spot and rightfully so.
When people gossip about your friend, eventually you start seeing your friend in a different light. When I used to sit in the same room during a gossip session, even if I didn't participate, it affected how I saw that person later on.
Jesus is being gossiped about every day. Not only by non-Christians and it affects how people see our LORD.
The word gossip has been once known as "groundless rumor". There are millions of Christians that aren't reading their Bible and speaking for Jesus all the time. They are preaching a gospel of prosperity or worst of all of legalism. I have heard someone once say, "the way to tell the difference between a cult and a untrue denomination is they cheapen what Jesus did on the cross". Legalism takes everything that Jesus did on the cross and says, "I will use that as a plan B, but I will do it on my own until I need it". Needless to say there are people that have made Jesus' name as dirt in America. They have made it a dirty word that you don't mention at the dinner table. Romans 2:24, "For the name of God is blasphemed because of you". We carry God's name as Christians.
One of my best friend's lost his faith on a missions trip, grew up going to the same churches and Bible studies as me, he learned the same stuff I learned. My other friend used to be a youth pastor and left the church and he can teach a good deal of Christians great things about the Bible without believing it now. There are a great deal of non-Christians that used to be Christians, they heard that, 'Jesus loves them'. There are plenty of non-Christians that know more about the Bible than a lot of Christians I know. They are prepared, but we aren't.
Basically we have been living and preaching a one dimensional gospel. We haven't been trying to have an answer ready for when we are asked about our faith and hope [Peter 3:15].
"Hearts are won by relationship and not by argument" -unknown
I feel like Jesus has such a bad reputation in America because of us. Because we look down on a smoker while we go home to look at porn. We sometimes only have problems with the sins that are public, and if we got all our outward sins out of the way, then we can appear perfect while our inward sins rot our souls. That is what legalism does.
The church is imperfect, I used to say that I stay in the church to defend it and show there are real Christians. But I am learning that when I join the church, I am just adding to the imperfections of the church. But we need to embrace that and stop excommunicating the outwardly flawed. When we do that, the world sees that we think we are perfect, though they are well aware that we are not.
There is no way I can talk to someone about financial advice until I paid them the money I owe them. We are in the debt of love, as Christians we owe people love, we are commanded to. When we love them, we are showing them we care about their souls and our God. When we throw facts at someone assuming they don't know, we are only showing we care about our agenda and church attendance
So to answer the question, "what is more important their bellies or souls". I would say both. In certain countries that haven't heard, tell them. In places that have a false idea about Jesus, don't add to the false idea, but in love show them the truth. Follow the discernment of the Holy Spirit, there is no set way to witness other than that. But sometimes you need to just sit down with people, have a cup of coffee and show them how you live.
"They will know you are Christians by your love" -Jesus
I want to write a book about all this.