People don’t change their minds easily. Research shows that it is much easier to use information to reinforce a belief that is held, no matter how tenuous that belief might be, than it is to change a belief with new facts. We are likely to discard facts that are in opposition to our beliefs and become more firmly entrenched in what we believe, than we are to change our beliefs. Perhaps we are reticent to change our beliefs because in doing that we would have to confess that we were wrong in the first place. It seems that the only way someone will change their beliefs is through an emotional experience or mob action.
The crowds hailed Jesus as Messiah when He entered Jerusalem on the donkey. Less than a week later, they angrily called for His crucifixion. During the crucifixion, they hurled insults at Jesus. When Jesus died, they realized that He was the Son of God. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” … “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:42-43, 54)
Maybe it was the frenzy of the morning in front of Pilate. Maybe the religious leaders were so angry that they lost all sense of decorum. Whatever the reason, they couldn’t stop their taunts towards Jesus. They hurled vile epithets at Jesus when He was defenseless and nailed to the cross. All the anger that they had to bottle up when Jesus was teaching in the city, lest the crowd turn on them, spewed out of their mouths while Jesus hung on the cross. Others joined in the taunts. Perhaps the cruelest was “He saved others but He can’t save Himself.” Jesus could have called down fire from heaven to consume those who reviled Him, but He refrained so that He might save some of those revilers. Criticism that focuses on things you can, but won’t do, or makes reference to something you know but can’t reveal, are often the hardest to deal with. In order to save others, though, Jesus couldn’t save Himself. It was the recognition of all the events after Jesus died that caused the soldiers guarding Jesus, and others as well, I believe, to understand who Jesus really is.
What does all this mean to us? We have a reputation for being a society that’s based on facts. We believe that if we give people factual information, they’ll change to do the right thing. That if we tell people about how Jesus died for their sins, they will understand that they’re sinners and need Jesus in their lives. Nobody’s perfect, right? Just try telling that to some people – the emotional reaction you’ll get is anger. Here’s the key if you want people to come to know Jesus. Love them. Make sure they know you love them when you talk about Jesus with them. Make sure you keep showing the love of God even when they reject the gospel as you share it with them. Keep loving them no matter how deep into trouble they may go because they cling to their sin. Love them and minister to them in their difficult times. Don’t judge them. Most people recognize their own sins, even if they adamantly deny them. Just minister to them and keep showing them and telling them about the love of Jesus. Many people won’t come to know Jesus until they’re at their lowest point in their lives. Just keep loving them all the way through. And when they do come to Jesus, rejoice with them because this new life will be so much better than the old one. That’s a fact.
Oh Lord, remind me of the great price You paid for me to have salvation and a relationship with You. Help me to love You more each day. Let my show my love for You by loving others at all times.