Unable to awaken from his drunken stupor, a young man was left moneyless in Ocean City, Maryland as his “buddies” returned to Baltimore. The students I had taken to Ocean City to witness on the boardwalk discovered the young man and invited him to our apartment. As he devoured a few hotdogs, a young lady in our group spoke to him of Jesus, explaining the gospel. When it became apparent that he was more interested in hotdogs than Jesus, with some measure of disgust, the young lady stated, “I guess some people have to hit rock-bottom before they’re ready to listen.” Sitting nearby as an observer, I took the opportunity to interject with, “That may be true, but sometimes rock-bottom has a sign above the door that says, ‘City Morgue.’”
You have likely heard someone sarcastically say, “When I go to hell I am going to PAR-TEE!” If so, you were dealing with a careless sinner, similar to the one in the account above. Though all sinners have the common attribute of having the wrong ultimate motive, there are differences between sinners. In the upcoming series, we will consider these differences. In this post we will consider the careless sinner (sometimes known as a hardened sinner), followed by the awakened sinner (sometimes known as a concerned sinner) and then the convicted sinner. We will also consider ideas about ministering to each type in our effort to move them toward conversion.
The Careless Sinner
The essential thing we need to know about careless sinners is that they do not care. They do not care that they are offensive to God or to other people. They do not care that they are irresponsible or that they are destroying relationships as well as their lives and, often, the lives of others (Pr.1:32, 10:1, 17:21, 19:13). Psalm 14:1 records, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.” Many of the statements about the fool, the mocker and the scoffer recorded in Proverbs are descriptive of the careless sinner. If you were to tell the careless sinner that Jesus loves him or He died for him, he would likely say, “I don’t care.” It is also common for the careless sinner to be abusive to anyone who attempts to witness to them or correct them (Pr.9:8, 15:12, 13:1). They are hard and unreceptive, often aggressively antagonistic toward spiritual truth.
Dealing with the Careless Sinner
When witnessing, it is helpful to identify the careless sinner as quickly as possible. As the careless sinner can be abrasive, abusive and insulting, one must avoid personal offense, discouragement and frustration. The essential goal when dealing with the careless sinner is to inspire (or shock) them to begin caring. It is certain that, if they begin to care, they will first care about themselves. It might be the inconvenience sin is causing (jail, fines, parole, etc.), it might be the fear of death or it might be some other loss they do not want to deal with (money, wife, children, etc.). It is very important to know that this care is generated by pure selfishness, not love, care or concern for others. To avoid unnecessary abuse, it is best to drop a few “truth bombs” and move on, praying for them and allowing the truth and the Spirit of truth to do their work in his heart and mind.
By the term “truth bombs,” I simply mean Biblical concepts that should stir concern. When using such truth, it is best to communicate the principle in the form of a creative statement or illustration rather than quote the verse. The statement about the city morgue was another way of saying, “The wages of sin is death” and was simply designed to inspire concern. Passages such as Ro.6:23a, He.9:27 (1 Co.6:9-10, Ga.5:19-21), Pr.26:28 and 29:1 are sample passages. It is a good practice to note further useful passages when reading Scripture. I will list further resources for study at the end of this series.
If ministry to the careless sinner is effective, they become an awakened (concerned) sinner. Notice, they are still a sinner, supremely motivated by selfishness. We will consider the nature of and ministry to the awakened sinner in our next article.