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Excuses

A pastor tells of one excuse given for not becoming a Christiant:
"0n Thursday night Mrs. John Jones had made a public profession of her faith in Christ
and had asked for believers baptism.
On Friday morning I went by her husband's shop to invite him to the baptismal service.
As we talked about his wife's decision I discovered he was not a Christian.
Before I could say anything else he said, “Preacher, I'd like to be a Christian
more than anything I know, but I can't. My business takes all of my time
.”

Mr. Jones' excuse is just one of many given for not following Christ
and not identifying with the church.
The Christian who consistently witnesses to people will consistently be given excuses.
Some of the excuses most often heard are:
I'm good enough already.”
I couldn't hold out.”
There are too many hypocrites in the church.”
I don't accept all of the Bible.”
Eventually, but not now.”

A Christian should keep a list of the reasons which he is given for not becoming a Christian.
During the days of our Lord's earthly ministry he was often given excuses
as he called upon men to follow him.
Even when confronted by Christ many made excuses.

Some used their business.
I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it . . .” (Luke 15:18).
I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them ...” (Luke 15: 19).

Some used their families. “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come . . .”
(Luke 15:20).
Lord, suffer me first to go bury my father . . .” (Luke 9:59).

Why do people make excuses?
Some excuse their unbelief by claiming the gospel has not been presented to them properly.
Their reasoning is based upon the feeling that men think rationally
and when they are presented with all the facts they will do what is right.
Men, even when they know what is good and best, do not always do it.

Jesus pointed this out when he told Nicodemus that there is something
so fundamentally wrong with man that unless he is changed from above
he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Men make excuses because they are sinners.

Excuses are born out of a desire to cover up for self.
There are several general principles to keep in mind as one speaks
to somone about Jesus, and is given an excuse.

1. Remember an excuse often hides the real problem.
As Jesus spoke to the woman of Samaria, her replies kept pointing him
away from herself.
As Jesus came very close to the whole failure of her life,
as reflected in her many husbands, she tried to turn the discussion away
to the traditional argument between the Jew and the Samaritan as to where to worship.
(John 4:20)
Many feel the severity of Jesus in dealing with the excuse-makers in Luke 9:57-62
was born of the understanding which he had that they were using these
to cover up their real reasons.

2. Witnessing is so much more than answering excuses.
There is a temptation to become fascinated with matching wits with those
whom we seek to win.
After all the excuses are answered, there is still the main business of giving witness
concerning what God has done in Christ and calling for the response of faith.
It would be quite possible for a person to get the better of an individual in reply
to an excuse and as a result lose him.
Remember, excuse answering is always secondary.

3. The same excuse cannot always be answered in the same way.
There is a tendency to memorize a set of standard answers to standard questions.
This approach fails to consider that in all probability no two people ever use
the same excuse from the same perspective.

For instance, a person may say, “I don't believe all of the Bible.
It would be a mistake to launch into an elaborate defense of the scriptures
without finding what might be behind such a statement.
It may be intended to get rid of you.
It could be simply a confession of ignorance as to how the Bible came to be.

Then, it may be a person who has been confused by someone writing
about the “lost books of the Bible.'
This person may have been confused by some sect.

It may be a boy who has had a course or two in science and cannot work out
what seems to him to be a conflict between science and the Bible.
The best way to find out what is behind such a statement is to ask,
What do you mean?”

When you are speaking to a person about Christ and he gives an excuse,
the best approach under most circumstances would be to ask a question
to clarify his meaning.
For instance, suppose a person says, “There are hypocrites in the church.”
Our worst self might have a tendency to retaliate with, “You aren't perfect yourself.
While this is true, it will only cloud the interview with unwholesome emotions.
It would be easier, wiser, and most likely, more helpful just to return with,
What do you mean by that?”
The person may just be making a standard generalization.
Or he may have had a hard time with a church member.
Then, he may be a person who has believed everything he has heard
about church members.
Whatever is behind his statement, his answer to your question is apt to give you
a clue to the background of his excuse.

Do your best to understand what may be behind an excuse.
This will make your answer more effective.
After you feel sure you understand what the person means,
give an answer which points him back to the real issue.

Suppose a person says, “I'm good enough already.”
Your question reveals that this person has a very negative view of goodness.
Goodness, to him, consists in certain things which he does not do — such as drinking,
gambling, etc.
How might you deal with such an excuse?

There are several possibilities.
You might read the story of the rich young ruler whom Jesus called to follow him.
(Mark 10:17-31)
In this story Jesus tells the rich young ruler that God is the source of goodness
and not man.
Though he had obeyed the external law since his youth, the young ruler failed
to measure up to the claims of Christ.
Instead of the above approach, a person might turn away from the superficial
understanding of the nature of goodness to the real nature of man's badness.
When a person sees sin as wanting his own way instead of God's way
it is not difficult to get agreement that “all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God
” (Rom. 3:23).

It might be that a more direct approach could be made under some circumstances.
You might say, “Do you mean you really feel that in all your relationships
with yourself and with others you have lived up to all God intended for you
?”
It would be very difficult for a serious and honest person to answer, “;I have.”
This question is a paraphrasing of what it would mean not to fall short of the glory of God.

4. Deal with each excuse openly and honestly.
It may be given in a bad spirit, but it must be answered in a spirit of love.
Never be defensive or indignant when an unfair accusation is made.
If a lost person points out a real wrong, admit it.
Do not be found defending wrong.
If the person exhibits partial understanding, help clarify in a kind way.
If the person asks a question you do not know the answer to, admit it.
An “I do not know, but I will find out” never hurt anyone.
Though you may have heard the excuse given many times, treat it with courtesy.
It could be a serious matter to him.

5. Use the scripture naturally and in the light of its best interpretation.
Even though only a verse is used, one should be careful the use being made of it
is in keeping with what it means in its context.
A lost person who has no idea of the content and arrangement of the Bible
may be confused by the person who quotes little snatches of scripture
from everywhere from Songs of Solomon to Revelation.
The Bible is not like a first aid manual, to be referred to as certain accidents
or ailments are confronted.
The Bible is an inspired book that has one plot — redemption.
The witness must first learn to explain from the scriptures this theme:
that God was in Christ “reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19).

When answering the excuses try to come back to state what is man's need
and God's requirements.
These are the real issues on which he must act.
The answer you give can become an effective transition from his problem to God's solution.

As long as Christians witness to the lost they will be confronted with excuses.
Whether they become snares which turn you aside from your main task
or lines of communication by which you come to a greater understanding
of the excuse-maker depends upon you.
If you know what the gospel is and how a man is supposed to respond,
then no excuse can thwart your witness.