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What was Jesus like with unbelievers?

Jesus showed deep concern for unbelievers, both Jewish and Gentile. Whenever He sought to teach the truth to someone, He engaged them on an individual level - speaking in terms they could understand and teaching them in regards to their own specific spiritual situation.

To give just a few examples, when speaking to Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) He speaks of being born again and receiving eternal life with reference to the Old Testament Scriptures - something a Pharisee like Nicodemus would be familiar with - and He chides Nicodemus for his lack of understanding despite his great education. When speaking to the woman at the well (John 4), He begins speaking to her about water from the well, then speaks to her of the water that ends all thirst, pointing her to something which will grant the fulfilment that she had been seeking in human relationships (John 4:18). With the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22), Jesus says to lay down his riches and follow him - of course, riches were the great barrier in the man’s otherwise earnest search for eternal life.

We see that Jesus is always changing His approach based on the heart of who He is speaking to: based on how much of God’s Word they know, what their hearts are like, and what their personal stumbling blocks are. Jesus knows each individual personally (John 2:25), and is able to put his finger on the key issues of their hearts. In the same way, when we speak to unbelievers we should get to know them, consider where they are at, and speak into their lives accordingly (1 Peter 3:15-16). The Gospel message does not change, but it is to be applied to individuals in a way that speaks to the key issues of each person’s heart, that they might put their faith in Jesus.

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