On Thursday evenings, a small group of us have been going through the Gospel of John in a different way than we may have done so previously. We are reading certain portions that we believe would be of most interest to our Non-Christian friends, and developing questions that we can ask them as they read through that same portion with us.
Because several people are doing this, and more are interested, I decided to post much more of the thinking behind this method along with the questions that we have developed for each section. That’s means this will be a multi-part post that will appear over several weeks in the next months.
Today, I wanted to go further into the concept of reading and talking through the Gospel of John with one or more Non-Christian friends, family members, neighbors, etc.
As Christians, we look at the Gospel of John and at Jesus Himself through a grid (or paradigm) that has developed by our belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that we should learn His teachings and follow His ways.
Here’s a news flash! Non-Christians do not have this same grid through which they view Jesus, faith, or Christianity. That requires us to think differently than we normally do, and ask questions that make sense to them rather than to us.
Because of this difference, there are certain passages that are more likely to engage a Non-Christian, and other passages that will not be helpful. While we may dig very deeply into the story of Jesus driving money changers out of the temple (John 2:12-22), this kind of story can simply cause confusion for a Non-Christian, since it would be necessary to explain Jewish ritual law to make sense of what was going on.
Instead, I strongly suggest that you choose passages that are already fairly clear to a Non-Christian without getting lost in religious details. For that reason, the passage discussed in future posts will be “cherry-picking” through the Gospel.
Remember, John’s Gospel was written primarily to people who were already believers, and already understood much of the content. There is also clear evidence in the way John writes that he assumed his readers (hearers) had already read or heard the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), since he refers to events that are only covered in those books and not his own.
Since this will be the first foray into the Bible for many of the Non-Christians that you may be meeting with, it makes sense to cut to the chase and deal with passages that Non-Christians can easily understand, rather than teach historical details and blur their understanding with more than they need to know to come to grips with who Jesus was/is and what he said and did.
Which brings me to my final point of this post. The objective of reading and discussing John’s Gospel with your Non-Christian friend is to help him or her understand what Jesus said and did. In most cases, they will not buy everything lock, stock and barrel. The objective is to simply expose them to Jesus directly from John’s Gospel, rather than from what they may get from a group discussion at work with other Non-Christians or the liberally based History of the Bible series on television.
On my next post, I will expound on the concept of helping someone understand what Jesus said and did.