When I accepted Christ I began to share my faith—poorly. It was not long until I offended everyone I knew. First of all, I have to admit I didn’t have a clue about what I believed and secondly I did not honour anyone else’s view or arguments regarding why they were not interested. I just pushed.
It became so bad that no one would answer their phone any longer in case it was me inviting them to church, prayer meeting, special services, or to a baptismal. If something was going on at the church then I was out beating the bushes to drag people to the event.
I would pray over people while they kept on working away at whatever they were doing. One friend blew smoke over me while I prayed for him and his wife and the list could go on. I never once thought the problem was my witness but instead the hardness of their hearts was the problem. This would have gone on forever if it hadn’t been for one friend who was still talking to me.
He told me how obnoxious I was and how I did not make any sense. He told me in as a polite way as he could that I was crazy with religion and no one could stand to be around me anymore. Ah! Ha! Here was the devils messenger trying to discourage me from sharing my faith with my heathen and pagan friends who were going to die without ever knowing that they shouldn’t smoke or go to dances.
I talked this over with people in the church I was attending and they sympathized with me because they knew how hard it was for worldly people to give up their vises and become church members. Only a small group, a remnant, would be strong enough to accept all the truth of the Bible and join up with God’s last day people.
Needless to say two things happened to me as a young Christian. The first was I developed a spiritual pride in the knowledge that I was open enough to allow God to lead me to the right church and secondly most people were just too bad to ever become committed Christians.
Believe me, those six paragraphs were difficult to type because they remind me of how totally wrong I was about my spiritual life. When I accepted Christ as my personal Savior I was aglow with the fire of the Spirit that burned in me. Everything about me changed. I wanted to be good and do all the right things to make God happy with me. I gave up all my bad habits, got rid of the television, stopped listening to music – the whole nine yards.
I was in love with the church, not with Jesus. In fact, I was not very interested in hearing about Jesus because what really thrilled me were Bible prophecy, Revelation, and doctrine. I loved confronting people of other faiths and ripping into their beliefs. I had an emotional high when someone couldn’t answer my questions and stood before me defeated and confused. My side had won. Chalk one up for my church. Now the next step was to show them that since their views couldn’t hold up to my biblical broadside they needed to join my church—the true church.
I have often wondered if I was any different from millions of other Christians who have good intentions in their witnessing but have also mixed up religion with knowing Jesus. Did I really think my friends were going to stop living their lifestyle because my church said so? I was trying to make them church members instead of followers of Jesus and that was because I did not know what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
Let me tell you a story. Ruth and I were living just outside Boston when we were invited out to dinner by one of Ruth’s brothers. He brought along his girlfriend at the time to introduce us to her. As we sat eating she kept looking at me. Finally she said, “I know you.” I assured her she didn’t. Then she asked me if I was from a certain city in Canada. I was.
She asked me if I had owned a natural food business. I had. She asked me if I remembered giving Bible studies to a young couple that lived in a Yurt out on the beach. I did. Then it all came tumbling back into my mind.
I had met them in my store and ended up giving them Bible studies for months and then one day her and her husband just stopped. They told me that they were sorry but it was not working out and thanked me for coming over each week and that was that.
As we sat chewing pizza I finally asked her, “why did you stop the studies?” She put her food down and told me. “When my husband and I asked you to come and give us studies we were going through a rough time in our marriage. We thought that spiritual help would maybe solve the problems.” I told her I was sorry I hadn’t been able to help. She looked a long time at me then let the full truth tumble out. “Every week you came we wanted to talk to you about the problems. We wanted you to listen and help us but all you wanted to do was follow the Bible guides you had brought. We could never talk to you.”
Every word she spoke was true. Why did I meet her in a little restaurant in Massachusetts after all those years? I believe she had a message for me from Jesus about ministry because that encounter changed my entire understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Christ.
We call ourselves Christians but there is so much baggage associated with the term. We confuse sharing the love of Jesus with persuading people to believe like we do. If my friends had accepted my message then they would have become the legalist that I was. I believe God protected them from my witness so they could be open to Jesus at a later time.
Instead of trying to convert our families to our brand of Christianity maybe we would have greater results in introducing them to Jesus who loves them unconditionally. Would we not be better off talking to people about Jesus’ unending love that transforms us instead of arguing with them over whether or not Christian’s are exclusive and bigoted in their view of culture? I am tired of defending Christianity and its never-ending view of negativity towards the world when Jesus loves the world and laid His life down for it.
I was in a coffee shop a few days ago and the woman at the next table began talking to my friend and myself and one thing led to another and soon we were discussing religion. She declared that she was an atheist and was angry because a spiritual leader in her town had refused communion to some people in a senior’s home because he did not know if they were in good standing in his church. She said that was crazy. She was surprised that we agreed with her. I told her Jesus would have given communion and then talked about Jesus. Her response was interesting, “I have no problem with Him.”
Let’s stop trying to convert the world to our brand of Christianity. In fact maybe it would be good to lie that on the shelf for a while and instead share the love of Jesus with people. A survey done in a mall in a very secular city in the USA found that the majority of people interviewed were opposed to Christians and Christianity but those same people were very open to hearing more about Jesus.
Could I be so bold as to say it is not about your cherished doctrines but about the cherished one—Jesus?