A psychologist friend recently came back from a missions trip to Muslim Africa. He said he used the “paradoxical intervention technique” while evangelizing and found it worked. It went something like this…
My friend starts talking to a Muslim shopkeeper and mentions he’s a Christian from America.
Shopkeeper: Do you Christians really believe in three gods?
Friend: Are you kidding me?
Friend: I care about you too much to answer that question.
Shopkeeper: What? Why?
Friend: Because if I start telling you about it, you might believe me. And if you believe me, they’ll have to cut off your head. I know how your religion works and I care about you too much to see that happen to you.
Shopkeeper: No, no, no. You tell me. This won’t happen.
Friend: You’re trying to trick me. I don’t want you to die. So, no, I can’t tell you about Jesus and Christianity.
By this time other shopkeepers…all Muslims…have gathered around.
Shopkeeper: No, you tell me what you believe!
Friend: You really want to know? OK, but you have to make a promise.
Friend: You have to promise you won’t believe me. And you have to promise to make fun of what I say.
Shopkeeper: Yes, yes! Ha ha! I do that! I won’t believe!
Friend: You all heard that, right? Do you all promise too? I don’t want anyone here to believe me and get your head cut off. I love you too much. Do you all promise not to believe me, and to make fun of me?
Crowd: Yes, yes!
Friend: Well, you see this bug here? [Points to a bug on the ground.] Well, if you wanted to communicate with this bug, how would you do it? Wouldn’t you become a bug? Well, my God is so powerful, He could become a bug if He wanted to. But your god is not powerful enough to do that…
The crowd murmurs.
Friend: And my God is so powerful, He could also become a man. His name is Jesus. God came because He loved me and you so much. He wanted to talk to us and show us He loved us. But your god isn’t powerful enough to do that. But remember, don’t believe me! You promised! If you’re going to believe me I’m going to stop right now.
Shopkeeper: No, no, I don’t believe you. Keep talking.
Friend: Well, I have a book here. You know the Injil?
Shopkeeper: Injil, oh yes.
Friend: It’s the Injil, the Gospel of John. It’s the words of Jesus.
Friend: Here is something Jesus said. I want you to read it. But I want you to put your name in there. Read it, but put your name in it.
My friend hands him a Living Waters Gospel of John. The Shopkeeper starts reading.
Shopkeeper: “For God so loved the world…”
Friend: Put your name in there and read it again. Not world, but your name.
Shopkeeper: “For God so loved Mohammed that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes….”
Friend: Put your name in there again! Not whoever, but Mohammed.
Shopkeeper: “For God so loved Mohammed, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that if Mohammed believes in Him, Mohammed shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Friend: Oh no.
Friend: I see it in your eyes.
Friend: You believe it. You believe what Jesus said! You promised me you wouldn’t believe it!
Crowd [laughing]: You promised! You promised!
Shopkeeper: No, no, I don’t believe.
Friend: Good. I don’t want you reading anymore of what Jesus said. You give that book back to me.
Shopkeeper: No, no, I keep this…
And on it went.
Isn’t that interesting?
My friend said he knew the Muslims would make fun of his beliefs anyway, and would be adamant about not believing, so he used that to his advantage. In the paradoxical intervention technique you prescribe the symptom you want to resolve, in order to achieve the opposite result. By making them promise not to believe, he opened up a way for the crowd to hear the saving message without it being perceived as evangelism. In fact, they demanded he explain what he believes. And the crowd could listen, and consider it openly, because they had all agreed not to believe it, and to make fun of it.
I wonder if God was employing the paradoxical intervention technique when He sent Isaiah with this message:
“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (Isaiah 6:9).