Love Thy Neighbor

Last night at bible study, we got to talking about evangelism, and where it fits in life.  A lot of people have really negative views of Christian Evangelism, whether it be bible thumpers on a street corner telling you that you’ll be damned for eternity or well-dressed young people going door to door trying to sell people on Jesus.

Here’s a couple thoughts on the subject:

One  You cannot force someone to be a Christian, you cannot shove it down their throats, and you cannot sell it.  Being a Christian means entering into relationship wiht Jesus.  Period.  All those dos and don’ts aren’t a list of what you can and can’t do as a Christian, the rules you have to follow, but more a heads up to how you’re going to want to act when you’ve immersed yourself into a relationship with Jesus.  Ultimately, just as you can’t force anybody to be friends with someone else, you can’t force anyone into a relationship with Jesus.  Trying to do so just results in hippocrits that damage the image and reputation of what Christianity is.

Two  If you are a Christian, don’t be afraid to say it.  You don’t need to ram it down everyone’s throats, but it should be fairly clear that you are what you are.  Being a Christian is not something to hide. 

Three (but related to two)  We are called to bring Jesus to people who do not know Him.  What does that mean.  Myself and many others have this idea that being an evangelist means you’re heading off into remote areas, often in third world countries to bring God to people who have nothing.  To sacrifice a home life for travel and outreach work.  I’m not entirely sure this is the case.

Just Thoughts  I feel like we’re called to two types of evangelism.  The first is that traditional, go somewhere to where people are living in less than idea conditions and give back, help them build or educate or live or whatever and help the love of God enter into those areas.  At the same time, I feel like often we’re quick to neglect our neighbors, whether they be in our apartment or neighbourhood, city, province or state, or country.  There’s just as many equally deserving people surrounding us every day right where we are that could use insight into who God is.  As much as I’d like to help people who have very little and whose lives could be improved by getting to know who God is, I don’t necessarily feel like their salvation is any more important that say, a good friend of mine who has been struggling with the concept of God for a long time.  Many of us agreed last night that the one thing that we’re undoubtedly called to do is to be a light.  Make the fact that you’re a Christian obvious through how you live your life.  Make yourself open to people, that if they have questions about God or Jesus or whatever it is you believe, they know that you can talk to them about it non-judgementally.

Jamie told a story about the fellow who runs Aqua Books and how he was told once that you can’t turn people off Jesus, only onto Him.  A self-proclaimed post-evangelist (I love that term), he’s said that it’s completely false: you can turn people off Jesus, he has.  I feel the same way.  There are places where going in “guns blazing” so to say is an effective, if not prefered, form of evangelism.  There are other places where it needs to be more subtle.  As Christians, we are called to be in the culture, but not of the culture.  In some ways, we need to “play by the rules” of the culture, and that results in different methods and expectations to how religion is approached.

I feel like Christians fall into three categores: there are the people who feel deeply convicted that they need to go out to all sorts of places all over the world and proclaim the Good News.  Conversely, I think there are people who feel called to “set up base” at home and work from within their community.  Lastly, I think there are the “in betweens” people who either lean more to one side or the other, be it staying at home or travelling, but still have a desire to do the other.  I deeply feel that not only are each of these callings okay, but it’s important that we have all three of them.  For myself, I know that I lean towards the staying put method and working in my community wherever home is to help people get to know Christ.  But I still have the desire to head out every once in a while and do some sort of missionary/evangelical work.  Last summer I went to Mexico to build a couple houses and as great as an experience as it was and I’ll never forget it; I don’t think I feel called for that travelling lifestyle to be my main one.

But ultimately, be a light.  That’s what’s important.  You don’t have to shove your Christianity down other’s throats, but they should see your beliefs be a conviction in how you life your life, and they should feel that if they have questions about this God guy, they can ask you and know that you’ll have a conversation with them about it.

I’m just going to stop here before my thoughts get any more disorganized.  Feel free to leave some comments on what you think about all this!