I am a Christian. I have been for almost 7-years now. If you’ve ever been to church or have Christian friends, you probably know that Christianity puts a big emphasis on evangelism. Evangelism is a fancy word for “telling people about Christianity.” Christianity isn’t the only religion with this focus, in fact, tons of religions teach that you have to spread the news. That is how religions grow. But, as Christians, how are we suppose to do it?
I think most would agree that the members of Westboro Baptist Church who are protesting military funerals and picketing with signs saying “God Hates Fags” & “You’re Going To Hell,” are doing it wrong. Keep in mind that just because someone is using the Bible does not make them a Christian.
But aside from the extreme, how should we interact with people who believe differently? How should we interact with people who don’t believe at all? If you have no religious base, you might not understand why someone would need to interact with people different than others. As a real Christian, not just somebody who claims it on Facebook or went to church a few times as a kid, my faith is the most important thing in my life. So, when I talk with people who don’t agree with that belief, I am not able to talk to them about some of the things that are most essential to me. If we truly believe in Christianity like we say we do and as the Bible teaches, then how do we interact with people who aren’t “Christian?” Aren’t they going to go to Hell if we don’t preach to them? If we don’t tell them what we believe is the truth, are we not loving them? I never claim to be the judge of who is going where, but I want you to know that just because you started throwing scriptures at them (from a book they don’t believe in) does not mean you have helped them or “planted a seed.” In fact, you’ve probably damaged the soil.
I’m a college student which means I’m a baller on a budget living with three other guy roommates. We all get along pretty well and hangout pretty often. I have lived with the same people for a few years, not because I didn’t have any choice, but because I actually like them…most days. While we have a lot of the same characteristics, each of us is very different from the other. One of my roommates, Casey, is Jewish. A real, non-bacon, non-pepperoni pizza eating, yamaka wearing Jew. My faith is the most important thing in my life, and everyday I interact with someone who not only completely disagrees with the center of my belief, but represents the people group who killed Jesus.
Knowing that I am a pastor, people always ask me questions like “How do you do it? How do you live with someone so different than you? Do you guys fight?” To be honest, its not hard. It’s not hard to live with someone with a different religious view. Likewise, it’s not hard to be friends with an atheist. Christians have this tendency to want to “fix” people. We want to fix people’s lives who aren’t going so well. We want to fix people’s religious beliefs so they understand the truth and will go to Heaven. We want to fix people’s sexual orientation. We want to fix ____________. We believe we have the truth, they need the truth, and therefore we need to bring them the truth. I completely agree with all of that. But we suck at actually doing it. Oh, we are good at telling people about our Jesus juice that can solve all their problems, but we aren’t as good at giving them reasons to actually listen. Casey doesn’t want to be “fixed.” Casey doesn’t want to be viewed like there is something wrong with his religious belief. Atheists don’t want to be fixed into a religion that tells them what they can and cannot do nor do they want to fixed into believing in a god that would send good people to Hell. Homosexuals don’t want to be viewed like they are broken in God’s eyes and need to be fixed. Instead of trying to “fix” people who view things different than us, how about we love them regardless? After all, the second most important thing in Jesus eye’s was loving people. Not just people who look the same, believe the same, or live the same as us, but all people.
When I look at the Bible, I find that there was no better person at creating followers of Jesus than, well, Jesus himself. Whenever Jesus is interacting with people in the Gospels, I have noticed two themes in every situation. Jesus operated in both love and in power. Jesus didn’t hang out with the rich and political, he didn’t hang out with the other religious teachers, sometimes he didn’t even hangout with Jews(which was his own religion). Jesus spent his time with the nobodies, with the poor, with the unreligious, with the sinners. He had compassion on the poor and on the sick. He loved his followers, and for that reason they loved him back and listened to what he said. They loved Jesus for who He was before they loved Him for what He believed. Sure, Jesus spoke truth. Jesus said things that were hard for people to accept and understand, but the reason they listened to Him was because they loved Him first. As a Christian culture we need to spend less time looking at people like they are different than us, less time trying to come up with a plan to get someone to church or trying to get someone to accept what we believe and more time working to be a person they might actually want to be like. I can walk into churches all over the country and say to myself “If being a Christian looks anything like that guy then I want no part of it.” That is how a lot of people look at Christians. But, if Jesus were walking through society doing the things He did 2000 years ago, I’m willing to bet there would be a lot of people who say “I want to be like that guy.” So, as Christians we should focus trying to be like “that guy.” And “that guy” spent a lot of time loving on people.
People are more interested in who you are than what you believe. If you are a Christian, what you believe should be the foundation of making who you are. If people are pursuing who you are because of how much you have loved them, how much compassion you have shown them, or how much you have done for them, then they are going to trace back to your beliefs. Now, they are the one’s asking questions about something they are genuinely interested in, instead of you forcing something on them they care nothing about.
I’m not telling you to hide your faith. I’m not telling you not to invite people to church. I’m not telling you to not to talk to people about Jesus. I am telling you that the greatest way you can do that is by loving them for who they are, where they are. Your greatest evangelistic tool is love. We don’t need them to say certain things, act a certain way, or believe certain things before we can love them. Jesus said if we followed him, He would make us “fishers of men.” The lives we are living should be attractive to those around us just as the life that Jesus lived was attractive to those around Him. CAUTION: Catching the fish and cleaning the fish are two completely different things. Jesus calls us to catch the fish, he doesn’t call us to clean them. It is not your job to point out all the wrong in someones life nor is it your job to try and fix people. We should be wise, encouraging and sharpening to one another while rooted in love, but leave the condemnation and transformation to God, the One who made all things good.
I talk about Jesus in someway, shape or form every day. Sometimes it doesn’t go well, but I love those individuals the same anyways. Casey and I talk about Christianity and Judaism all the time, but regardless of how our conversation goes, my relationship with him doesn’t do anything but grow. I like to think that the moment Casey has a tough time, needs advice, or is in need of prayer, I am going to be the first person he comes to. This isn’t because I have hammered Jesus down his throat (even though sometimes I do), but it’s because I have shown love to him consistently throughout our entire relationship regardless of what we disagree on. I have atheists approach me all the time in desperate situations asking me to pray for something. They know I am Christian, I don’t hide it but I haven’t forced it. I’ve shown love in our relationship and because of my previous investment I now have the opportunity to pray for them to a God that they don’t believe in. Just love people regardless of who they are, what they believe, or how they act. Quit trying to change people and focus on loving them. Critique a little less and love a lot more.