Dogs, pigs, and evangelism

Don’t ever give up on anyone, right? There’s something honorable about sticking with people, particularly when it comes to evangelism. That atheist you work with? Maybe he’ll eventually come to faith. The skeptic who lives next door? Her barriers might be torn down soon.

We intuitively know not to give up on people, which is what makes this passage a difficult one, especially coming from the One we know will never give up on us:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matthew 7:6).

The dogs he’s talking about are wild scavengers, and all pigs were unclean to Jews, so these aren’t compliments.

Dogs . . . pigs . . . really? What is Jesus talking about?

Some early Christians used these verses to defend their belief that some people—because of their ethnicity—were unworthy of the gospel. There’s no need to evangelize the Gentiles, because they’re not God’s chosen people. Others applied it to the Lord’s Supper, suggesting that Jesus meant for us not to serve Communion to ungodly people.

I’m pretty sure Jesus meant neither one in these verses.

If you’ve ever tried to share the gospel with others, you’ve probably been rejected by uninterested folks. How many times should you try? What if they repeatedly turn you down?

I think Jesus meant that because we only have limited time to share his word with the lost, we should be wise in how we go about it. When someone makes it clear that he isn’t interested in hearing about Christ, we ought to turn our attention to others who might be receptive.

You’ve probably heard the maxim: “No one should hear the gospel twice until everyone hears it once.” It’s often used by good, mission-minded people who are taking the gospel to unreached people groups. We probably shouldn’t take that saying literally—some of us needed to hear it a few times before we accepted it—but there’s probably a kernel of truth to it.

We can spend so much time taking the gospel to people who’ve heard it and rejected it repeatedly that we don’t share it with those who’ve never had the chance.

Or, maybe closer to home, we’re discouraged because someone we love simply won’t accept the gospel. Maybe Jesus wants us to know that some people are unreceptive. Maybe they’ll be interested later, but for now they’re not.

In those cases, we shouldn’t let their rejection cause us to think that no one is receptive. Truth is, there are millions of people out there who will follow Jesus when they hear the gospel. Let’s do our best to take it to those folks as soon as we can.

One more quick thought: If you’ve got an unbelieving husband, wife, child, sibling, or someone else you love dearly, Jesus isn’t telling you to give up on him or her. Keep praying, keep being salt and light—sometimes it takes years for people to turn to Christ.

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