I’m tired of Christians trying to make unbelievers believe what we believe. While we have been commanded to go and preach to every nation, the end goal of only a conversion of attitudes to mirror our own rights and wrongs is, in my opinion, shortsighted. I am just as guilty of that shortsightedness as many other Christians are.
Stop being gay. Stop being pro-choice. Stop having premarital sex. Stop voting for Democrats. Stop cursing. Stop listening to secular music. Stop drinking alcohol. Stop wearing make up. Stop working on Sundays.
Start being heterosexual. Start being pro-life. Start being celibate. Start voting Republican. Start praising. Start listening only to Christian contemporary music. Start drinking sparkling grape juice. Start covering your head. Start going to church.
Essentially: start following the rules that I follow, start being the person I want you to be.
What are our true motives for wanting to convert others to believe what we believe?
The aforementioned imperatives are things I have heard come from either my own mouth or the mouths of fellow believers.
The goal of all our interactions should be love. Love is transformative, restorative. It is what will change others. When we focus only on converting people to accept what we believe to be THE right thing, we often forget to love.
Telling someone that homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, punching a specific party’s ticket, shouting damn when they stub a toe, listening to Nickelback, a Long Island iced tea, waterproof mascara and supporting their families are sins may or may not be right. I’m pretty sure that Nickelback one is, but regardless, saying any of those things doesn’t sound like I love you to me.
We may be right until we are blue in the face, but will our being right make an unbeliever feel any less alone than they felt right before we started shouting at them?
As I think back to my own conversion nearly five years ago, it wasn’t a need to be right about every issue that brought me to Christ. It was a desperate need for love. I needed to know that someone cared about who I was, warts and all, more than I needed someone to shout what they believed was wrong with me.
It is important for individuals to be conformed to the image of Christ, to follow his commandments, but how can they do that if they have never met him? God is love. If we never display love, then can unbelievers ever say they have truly met Him?
God did not point out all of my flaws in our first meeting, he simply told me he loved me. His love transformed me from the inside out. Arguments, condemnation and name-calling did not convert me, love did.
I want unbelievers to experience the same soul penetrating depth of God’s love, to be equally flabbergasted that a man offered himself as payment for sin, to believe he raised from the dead, to have peace that forgiveness is a free gift they don’t have to earn and to be hopeful that one day, they will see that man’s face. If all I tell them is that they are wrong, if all I show them is that I am self-righteous, if my words are betrayed by my actions, then I know that will never happen.
Sometimes God will lead us to confrontation, but I am convinced we should err on the side of love. What is real love then? How do we do that?
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18.
The origin of the so-called Golden Rule sheds some light. While we often cling to the latter portion, we musn’t forget the former. We must let go of the grudges that get in the way of loving our neighbors as ourselves. We must let go of the propensity to want to be right in every circumstance and simply love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I think the most famous passage on love can be applied using an acronym for Love.
L: Listen. (verse 4)
O: Offer. (verse 5)
V: Value. (verse 6)
E: Engage. (verses 7-8)
Listen. Have you ever stopped to listen to why someone believes what they believe? Have you ever even given them the opportunity to explain why they believe what they believe? Listening does not equal condoning. You can listen to a person’s story and find their heart. If you give someone the opportunity to be heard, they are more receptive to hearing your own story. As you share your story, more than you heart is revealed though, Christ’s heart is revealed. We should listen even if we are never afforded the opportunity. Christ’s humility is seen in how he listens to our prayers, shouldn’t we also reflect that same attitude and afford that same kindness to our neighbor?
Offer. Offer only what you are invited to offer. Offer only what you are led to offer. Whether this be your time, your word or both, always be more willing to give than to receive. Even if you are a master at logic and sarcasm (two-time National Forensics League qualifier and state runner-up here, thankyaverymuch), take a moment to set that aside and just offer to be an acquaintance, a career reference, an extra set of hands, a friend. If you are rebuffed, live and let go unless the Lord continues to lead to continue your efforts.
Value. Respecting another individual is the first step in being able to relate to and minister to that individual. If you refuse to recognize another as a being crafted in God’s image because of what that individual believes or has been through or has done, you will be unable to relate and minister to that person. Do not rejoice that you know the truth and this person does not, rejoice that you can see God’s hand at work in his or her life. If you value this person as God values this person, you cannot help but want to let God use you to minister to this person.
Engage. Engage means to offer and to bind oneself to do something. Bind yourself to bear all things, to believe in all things and to endure all things so that all might know they are loved not just by their neighbor but by their creator as well. Start being the type of person who wants everyone in this world to know that they are loved by you and by your God. Engage in another’s life and keep the lines of communication open. So long as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.
I can’t be sure that all of the things mentioned at the beginning of this post are sins, apart from that Nickelback thing, but I am assured that regardless of convictions, unbelievers and believers alike were knit together in their mothers’ wombs, have the breath of God in them and cannot live abundantly without His love. With God’s strength and leading, I want my focus to be driven by the end goal of a love that converts and not a position that condemns.