Monday, July 8, 2013

Jesus, Orpheus, and Evangelism by Beauty

I've always been troubled by evangelism that needs to make people afraid of something so they will flee to Jesus.  Isn't it possible to present something that's inherently more desirable in the first place?  So I was delighted to discover a piece of Greek mythology I'd never heard before that expresses that idea.  It's the story of Orpheus and the Sirens.

To back up a bit... The Sirens were creatures who sang so beautifully that the sailors who heard their song could not resist going towards it.  They would throw themselves into the sea and perish on the rocks around the Sirens' island.  I knew the story of how Odysseus found a way to hear the song and survive: he had his crew lash him to a mast and plug their own ears with wax before sailing by.  Crafty one, that Odysseus.  But I had never heard there was another who got his crew past this peril as well.  It's a story of Orpheus who sailed with Jason and his Argonauts.

Orpheus was the greatest of musicians and had been invited to sail with Jason for just this situation.  As they approached the island of the Sirens, Orpheus began to to sing and play on his lyre, and his song was more enchanting that that of the Sirens, so the crew stayed with him and sailed past to safety.

To me, that's the image of evangelism I want to strive for.  To "sing a better song" that people would find even more compelling than whatever other songs have captured their hearts before.  Or better yet, casting Jesus as the Orpheus character, to introduce people to the Singer Himself.

You can do evangelism by fear.  But wouldn't it be better to do evangelism by beauty?

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