The New Inklings may disagree on a lot of things, but ignorance and obnoxiousness, regardless of faith, will not be tolerated. If you’re new, refer ye to the Pub Rules before proceeding.
No, I’m not writing about cancer. I’m also not writing a review about the Showtime TV show starring Laura Linney. I’m writing about a word many consider taboo when it comes to spiritual conversations. It’s a politically incorrect word. What is the word, you ask?
Conversions happen every day. As consumers, we’re converted by the gospel of advertising all the time. We’re convinced by the clergy of commercials to change the brand of soda we drink, jeans we wear, and computers we use. Once, we did not believe. Now we’re among the converted, and we’re ready to preach to the nonbelievers as why we now prefer Macs over PC’s.
But we’re not talking about someone changing their mind about Coke and Pepsi. We’re talking about Christians wanting those who don’t believe in Jesus to change their minds and start following Jesus.
Living in a culture that increasingly promotes religious tolerance, isn’t it just plain rude for Christians to insist that everyone believe exactly as they do? Conversion seems to trample on our right to believe what we want, when we want, and how we want. Why can’t Christians just keep their faith to themselves and leave everyone else to their own devices?
We give no thought to changing our minds about what we consume. But religious conversion? That’s treading on different ground entirely. Many people in our culture feel like conversion is illegally trespassing onto someone’s spiritual, emotional, and philosophical property.
So why are Christians so keen on it?
The Bible tells Christians that God has chosen them as the medium for sharing the message of Jesus. I freely admit that, as a Christian, I want people to follow Jesus. Not just know about Jesus. Not just feel all warm and fuzzy about Jesus. But to follow Him with every ounce of their being. Why is that?
Because if the message of Jesus is true, it’s the best news in the history of the world. A God who loved us so much that He became one of us. To teach us how to live. To show us how to love. To die so that we wouldn’t have to suffer punishment for our sin. To be raised from death never to die again in order to give us hope that sin and death really are defeated enemies. To empower us to live in such a way that the world gets a glimpse of what the Bible calls the kingdom of God–rescuing people broken by sin, addiction, poverty, abuse, and a host of other atrocities, preparing for a time when Jesus returns and makes all things new.
If all this is true, if we really have separated ourselves from God because of sin and He’s done everything to reconnect us with Him through Jesus, it’s the best news ever. And that’s why God desires Christians to share Jesus with others who do not follow him. To ask a Christian to keep their faith to themselves is to ask a Christian to amputate an integral part of their belief system.
I fully realize that, to most people, the message of Jesus doesn’t sound like good news. I also realize that many Christians and churches see people as projects. Those things pain me. I wish Christians would approach sharing Jesus with others much differently.
One of the cool things about the friendship Franny B and I share is that we acknowledge that fact. Our friendship doesn’t depend on whether or not she converts to Christianity. Would I be happy if she decided to follow Jesus? Absolutely. But that decision is not up to me. She knows my position, she knows what I believe. If she converts to Christianity, it is completely up to her. It is her choice.
Conversion isn’t about forcing someone to believe. It isn’t about passing out gospel tracts or becoming a “cookie cutter Christian” that is marinated in cheesy Christian subculture. It certainly isn’t about protesting funerals with “God Hates …” signs. Conversion is about a person who does not believe being so intrigued with how a Christian lives their life that they ask what the reason is for why they live and believe the way they do. And when that extended conversation takes place, and that person decides to follow Jesus, they do so because they changed their own mind about Jesus.
Every person has a story as to why they believe, don’t believe, or aren’t sure if they believe in Jesus. People are free to believe whatever they want. And even though God has given Christians the responsibility of telling others about Jesus, He won’t force someone to change their mind.
But for those who do, He will change their life.
The comments have been turned off for this post. Don’t worry, you’ll have your chance to join the conversation on Wednesday.