So I’ve been trying to sell my car. The transmission is rapidly making its way to that place where transmissions go to die. And the replacement will cost me more than the car is worth. So the whole car must go. And yet, with a functioning transmission costing more than the car is worth, how to sell it? I’ve thought about offloading it to a junkyard, but am not sure I could get much for it. Same thing with a trade in. So, as I type this on Wednesday afternoon, it’s up for sale on Craig’s List … hoping someone who does transmission work, or who just needs the spare parts, will offer me a few hundred bucks. So far I’ve had a few nibbles, but no taker.
And the whole ordeal has me thinking about salesmanship. In order to be a good (and honest) salesman, you have to really believe in your product. But how can I believe in a product, and pitch it to the watching internet, when I know that the repair is likely going to cost someone more than the car is worth? I can’t! But neither can I try and pull the wool over people’s eyes! And so the advertisement clearly states what is wrong with the car, and the financial infeasibility of a repair. And now I wait … with an honest, but not very alluring, Craig’s List posting. Maybe someone will count the cost and find it worthwhile for some reason or other. Maybe not.
And it reminds me, in some ways, of our proclamation of the gospel. Now, unlike my car, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the gospel! Nor is it for sale! And so there are some great dissimilarities (more than the similarities) between selling a car and proclaiming Christ. But one thing that is similar is that, in both cases, I am offering something which, at first glance, most people find unappealing. The average person comes across an advertisement for a car, and then reads that the transmission is dying, and he quickly scrolls to the next item in the Classifieds. And so it often is, as well, with the gospel of Jesus Christ – what with its insistence that we are sinners, its claim that we cannot recover ourselves, its call to repentance, and its announcement that Christ is the only way to the Father. All these are bits of the gospel ‘advertisement’ (if you’ll pardon the analogy) that cause many a person to just scan right on by … looking for something easier to handle.
And so what are we to do? How are we to woo men to Christ and His gospel when we know that there are significant parts of His message that most people find unpalatable?
Well, first of all, we are to be honest. You wouldn’t (I hope) sell your car to someone without being forthright about its challenges. And neither should you try and smooth out the gospel so as to make it more palatable to the consumer. No! Give them the whole picture – the hard truths as well as the more easy-to-swallow ones!
But then, secondly, help them see that the challenging parts of the gospel are actually good and necessary! The hard truths of the gospel aren’t really so much like a bad transmission as they are like the initial shock of a cold shower on a hot, sweaty day. We recoil, at first, under the icy chill. But soon we find that the cool of the water is actually far more refreshing than if we’d just remained in the ease of room temperature. And so it is with the biblical doctrines of sin, depravity, repentance, and the exclusivity of Christ. Those who get over their initial shuddering at these cold water truths actually find them to be abundantly refreshing streams! Alas that it is not so with my dying transmission! But it is so with the gospel. The hard parts are necessary … and (for those who embrace them) refreshing! And so I can woo people to Christ and His gospel without any hesitation in my mind that what I am offering is actually worth having!
And finally, as one would do when trying to sell a car online, we must pray that God will draw people to His gospel in ways that we cannot! I can put the advertisement online, but there is only so much I can do to attract eyes to my Ford for sale. And I certainly can’t convince them that it’s a good buy. But God knows someone who could make good use of this car of mine, and who would be glad to have it! And I must ask Him to drive them to the website! And in the same way, God certainly has many, many hearts that He is preparing to see their need of the gospel. And He will get them over the hump of the gospel’s challenges to the natural man’s prejudices. And He will drive them to this blog, or to our church, or across your path at work or the gas station so that they can hear and see what we are offering to them in Christ.
And so we are not gospel salesmen. But we should truly believe in what we have on offer! And more than that, we should believe in our God!