Do you ever feel like you’re speaking a foreign language when trying to explain the gospel to someone who isn’t a Christian? That’s how it sounded to me, before I came to faith in Jesus from a traditional Jewish background. Christians would invite me to church to hear a sermon about Jesus? I’d just respond, “I’m Jewish.”

What I meant was “I’m Jewish and we don’t do church.” The funny thing about it was that we were speaking past each other…like using different languages and we didn’t even know it. We didn’t even realize that we didn’t understand what the other person was saying.

Now I minister among other Jewish people and am working to help Christians communicate the gospel to them with greater understanding. More specifically, I work with Jewish-Gentile couples. Recently, I heard a Jewish partner in an intermarried couple complain that his Christian spouse kept calling him an “unbeliever.”

From the Christian’s perspective, that description was accurate. But, can you imagine how it sounded to the Jewish person? He was more than a little hurt and even said, “Wait, I believe there is a God.” The Christian’s reference was perceived as judgmental and incredibly painful and it was harmful to the relationship. The Jewish partner couldn’t hear the gospel. Instead, he wanted to know why she was saying that about him.

What can we do? Interacting with both Jewish people and other non-Christians might strengthen our communication skills with people who don’t yet share our faith.

Here are some random thoughts to help us create understanding, and maybe connection, with people who do not yet share our faith.

  • Beware of using insider language to describe people as “unbelievers” or “unsaved.” They might not yet get the gospel or believe in Jesus, but you don’t want to alienate them.
  • Try to hear how someone else understands your words. Treat common words like they are from a foreign language. You could ask, “How do you understand the word Christian?” Take it from there to work on clarification for both of you.
  • The spouse who calls his or her partner an “unbeliever” likely hasn’t considered how that sounds to the other. When someone insists that he or she believes in God, he or she provides an opportunity in which he or she can learn something new or more.
  • Ask them what they believe about God.
  • Ask them what they think God wants from them.
  • Ask them how they know their belief about God might be true.
  • Ask them what they want God to do for them.
  • Pray that God would answer their heart’s desire.

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