A common sentiment in today’s society is that people can believe what they like, so long as they don’t force it on other people. That would be fair enough if the intention was to stop people beating you over the head with unreasonable and unwanted preaches, but I think for a lot of people, that sentiment has come to mean “I don’t care what you believe, so don’t tell me.” People don’t like being told that there is a correct way of doing something. They might resort to defences such as “You can’t tell me that my opinion is wrong.” I’m sorry, but if your opinion is that black people are inferior, you’re wrong. If your opinion is that disabled people can’t play sports, you’re wrong. If your opinion is that Wayne Rooney is the best striker in England, you’re wrong. Okay, that last one was a joke, but you get the idea. My point is this: opinions can be wrong (gasp). If you refuse to engage in religious conversations, then to my mind, you’re just running away from the possibility that you might be wrong. This applies to religious people and non-religious people alike. I just want to encourage people to open their minds to the possibility that they might not have it all sorted. I have to be open to that possibility too, of course I do. That’s why I enjoy learning about the history of world religions and literature from other cultures, because it challenges me to evaluate where I stand and ensure that my faith is not hollow, but is based on actual arguments and reasoning. Obviously, I believe that Jesus is the risen Son of God, but I am open to debate or just simple conversation about this and any other religious issues.
There is another side of this. This part is more my thoughts on Christian evangelism. It is a well known command of Jesus that his disciples have to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:16-20), but how we should go about this isn’t revealed. I think that’s good, because there is no one method that works for everyone. In Acts, we see Paul reasoning with Jewish and Greek intellectuals to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God. This reasoning works well for a lot of people, and as a way of sharing your beliefs can be very productive as I’ve found in my own experience. Well known Christians like C.S. Lewis have come to God partly because of this type of thoughtful, religion-orientated discussion. However, this doesn’t work for all people. Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a Christian, but I know that some people were introduced to the Bible and were converted through their reading of it, some people need a bit of a kick up the backside to get them serious about God, whilst some people simply need to know that they are loved. There are many ways of evangelising and as Christians we have to trust that God will show us the best way to go about it with the different people that we come across.
That said, I think there are unhelpful ways to evangelise. One of these is forcing your beliefs on someone, in the way I mentioned above. I see this as incessantly hounding people with unhelpful, dogmatic statements that drive them to the end of their patience with you. I won’t rule out the possibility that that might work for someone, but I can’t see it being especially productive. In my mind, Christian evangelism should be sensitive and thoughtful; we should look for the best way to approach the topic so as to introduce people to it in an inspiring and encouraging way.
I feel that I should wrap this up in some sort of conclusion. Firstly I want to reiterate that it is pointless closing yourself off from all types of religious or philosophical debates. Challenge yourself and have the confidence to evaluate your beliefs alongside those of other people. Yes, you may have to change something, but you can also become surer of what you believe that way. Second, as Christians, we have a God-given duty to share our faith, but I feel that this should always be done in a sensitive way that is appropriate for each situation; there is no formula for evangelism.
Those are my thoughts on the subject, I hope I’ve encouraged you to have a think about it too.