Recently, I was listening to The God Journey podcast entitled, "A Journey for the Hungry." The conversation was fascinating as Wayne shared his experiences during trip to Brazil and Brad shared his experiences during his trip to Nashville. During the conversation, Brad asked Wayne if he thought Jesus spoke in parables to hide truth or to reveal truth. Wayne answered and said that Jesus spoke in parables to reveal truth to those who were hungry and seeking to understand but he spoke in parables to conceal truth from those who weren't ready to hear it.
That conversation really started me thinking about Jesus' style of teaching and preaching. When speaking to the masses, he said what he had to say but didn't give a lot of extra explanation. If they asked, he gave them more but he didn't spend a lot of time discussing and debating. At times, he even said some outrageous things seemingly to offend those who didn't have ears to hear. They either got it or they didn't but he didn't try to convince them. He gave them freedom to not believe and he even let them walk away unconvinced without defending what he had said.
Paul, on the other hand, often entered into a debate with those who challenged him and he was aggressive in trying to convince them of his viewpoint. The modern church seems in my opinion to be overly enamored with the apostle Paul so I believe they've tended to adopt his style of teaching instead of Jesus' style.
I've come to believe that Jesus' style is more in line with the nature of God. I'm not trying to demean the apostle Paul but he was a man, imperfect as we all are, and was prone at times to be led by his flesh. In my opinion, he was a great man and we can learn much from him but he wasn't perfect and neither were all of his actions.
Sometimes in our enthusiasm to see others enter into the fullness of this life of grace, we become aggressive in trying to convince them instead of allowing them to receive this truth as they are able to. Some capitulate and agree even though their hearts are not fully convinced. The result is "believers" who don't really believe and, when the storms of life come, their faith isn't strong enough to hold them steady.
I'm fully convinced that Jesus' method of sharing as people are ready to receive is the most effective and the most compassionate. When we feel like we have to aggressively debate the gospel, I believe we show a lack of trust in God's love and in his ability to work in the heart of the person we're speaking to. The truth is he loves them more than we could ever love them and he shows it by giving them the freedom to reject him if they choose. It's a love that frees people from guilt and manipulation. It's a love that's real because it gives us the freedom to decide.
The story of the rich young ruler is a good case in point. When asked how to receive eternal life, Jesus told him that he needed to sell everything and give to the poor. Because he was still attached to his wealth, the rich young ruler walked away sad. Jesus didn't run after him and try to change his mind nor did he try to explain further. Instead, he just watched him walk away. Then, he gave more explanation to those who stayed.
Church tradition says that the rich young ruler was Barnabas who, later as a disciple of Jesus, became along with Paul an apostle to the gentiles. I don't know if this is true but this story does prove that truth has to be revealed in its own time.
Trying to force a newborn baby to eat solid food before he's ready is not only ridiculous but it's dangerous to the health of the child. His internal organs haven't developed enough to properly digest solid food. He's just not able to remove the nutrients needed for growth and to maintain health and, trying to force him before he's ready, could result in permanent damage to his digestive system.
Although it does help with numbers, attempting to force a decision from a person can cause similar damage to his spiritual well being. Darin Hufford has written an excellent post on this subject. I believe his post, Christian Preemies, clearly describes the damage done by this aggressive soul winning tactic.