Q Los Angeles 2013
Arts + Entertainment
Science + Tech
My Friend Of Another Religion Doesn't Want To Become A Christian: Now What?
I want to help everyone I can to become a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that his way is true and right and good, and the more people follow Jesus, the better off they’ll be in this life and beyond, and the better off the world will be. I believe Jesus in grace accepts everyone, and I want them to accept their acceptance.
Of course, Jesus was not one to force people to accept his way. He allowed them to misunderstand him, reject him, and even to torture and kill him – which is about as far as anyone can go from forcing, controlling, shaming, or pressuring people to accept him against their will. True, there has been plenty of conversion by the sword in history, and plenty of emotional manipulation, fear-mongering, propagandizing, and intimidation too. But putting those ever-popular distortions aside, one of the dynamic tensions inherent in being a follower of Christ is that although I am convinced that Jesus is right and true and good, I can’t demand that others agree with me, nor can I expect that they will disagree with me in agreeable ways.
Or to quote a favorite hymn, even though I believe “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,” I can’t impose those demands on others.
So, to repeat myself, I want to help everyone I can to become a follower of Jesus Christ, but I don’t want anyone to have to become a follower of Christ against her will. Part of my faithfulness to Christ means respecting the right of the other to reject Christ, and to love this person no less because of their rejection.
Let me put this dynamic tension in the form of a question:
What is my duty to my neighbor who is not a follower of Christ?
What do I owe him? What does faithfulness to God and my neighbor demand of me?
Traditionally, this question has had four popular answers:
Share the gospel with him and invite him, challenge him, urge him to believe it and follow Christ. But what if he doesn’t want to? What if the gospel makes no sense to her? What if she is repulsed by my life, or the life of others who claim to believe? Or what if he has made other commitments which preclude him from considering this message, previous commitments which he has no desire to reconsider?
Condemn or exclude him.
I may wish to “help” my neighbor who doesn’t believe by constantly showing him my disapproval of his choice. I can even tell him that it is God who ultimately disapproves. I can more or less good-naturedly remind him that I am an insider and he is an outsider, that I’m in “good graces” and he isn’t, that “I’ve got a home in glory-land that outshines the sun,” as another old song said, and he has a considerably less sanguine prospect after death. Perhaps some might find this kind of treatment attractive (although I can’t imagine why); most – nearly all, I think, would be annoyed and would respond to in kind. They would condemn, criticize, and exclude in reaction to my uncharitable treatment of them. This could lead to a third response.
I could try to be sure that his life gets worse because he has rejected the truth that I love. Perhaps through a behind-the-back whispering campaign, I could make it hard for him to get a job or a raise, or to get housing, or to be accepted among my friends. Perhaps I could pass laws that make it harder and harder for him to practice his religion, or that require him to acquiesce to mine. I could hound him or surround him with my beliefs, sticking leaflets in his door and under his windshield wiper, turning his radio to a religious station when he’s not looking, putting up billboards outside his window, spray-painting religious slogans on the sidewalk in front of his house.
If he still resisted, I could spread ill-will toward “people like him” so that wherever he went, he felt rejection, threat, “otherness.” If this negative reinforcement didn’t lead him to decide to capitulate to my belief, I could resort to a fourth option.
With or without civility, I could just pretend that he didn’t exist. I wouldn’t invite him to my parties or accept his invitations; I wouldn’t cross the street to be in his presence, but might cross the street to avoid it. I would go my way, he his. I could associate with my kind of people and just pretend he and his kind didn’t exist.
Ironically, in following the latter three responses, I would be violating my commitment to Christ. I would be practicing a way of life that is the polar opposite of his example. Christ calls me to love my neighbor, not to condemn, persecute, or ignore him. So that brings us to the Fifth Option:
If someone doesn’t want to become a follower of Christ, I could
What does it mean to love my neighbor of another religion or no religion? I would like to suggest ten basic commandments that would help us put the one great commandment into practice.
1. THOU SHALT INCLUDE THY NEIGHBOR IN THY LIFE AND HOME, IN THY SPACE AND TIME.
In creating the world, God gave human beings space to enjoy God’s creativity and perhaps come to know and love God too. Through the incarnation, God entered our world through Jesus and encounters humanity, not with domination and coercion, but with self-emptying meekness and humility. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God brushes up against humanity and flows around us like the wind in the high branches. And through sending those who believe into the world with a mission of manifesting the love and reality of God through our good deeds, God continues to reach out to the world through us.
Through hospitality, we follow God in making space for people. Through entering people’s worlds – eating in their homes, going to their parties, joining them in their activities – we follow God’s outgoing, incarnational nature. Through manifesting a spirit of friendliness, service, welcome, kindness, and joy, the wind of God’s Spirit blows through us. And by being God’s hands and feet, God’s ears and smile, we become evidence for the reality and nature of God toward people of every religion or no religion. Through hospitality, neighborliness, and companionship, we follow the example of Jesus – from his conversation with a non-Jewish woman (John 4) to his healing of a Roman centurions’ servant and a Gentile woman’s daughter (Matthew 8:5 ff.; 15:21 ff.). We also follow the example of the early church, from Philip (Acts 8) to Peter (Acts 10-11) to Paul (Galatians 2:11 ff.).
heres a thought;
realize that there are as many holes in your religion as any one elses, and that until there is proof that any of them are right, everyone has a right to choose their own religion. stop being an ignorant fuck and realize that all religions (even atheism theories) sound ridiculous so it's anyones right to decide which bullshit magical theory they want to believe.
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