Should Christians Try to Convert Others? (part two)

I don’t see anything wrong with Christians trying to convert other people. There is, of course, Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  But I think there is more we can say:

Image

The Samaritan woman at the well
Artist: Giacomo Franceschini

If you think that someone has harmful ideas (physically and spiritually), doesn’t it make sense to try to change their mind?  In fact, wouldn’t this be considered an act of love?

Sure, everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and we should always show love, respect and hospitality to all people, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).  After all, shouldn’t Christians want a tolerant and just society for our Jewish, Muslim and atheist neighbors? 

And we should never manipulate someone else into changing their beliefs.  Hyper-emotional appeals at revivals come to mind here.  True love never manipulates, and Truth has its own ability to convict and persuade.  But does this mean we can’t conclude that someone’s beliefs are false and try to persuade them of the Truth?

Such talk of truth will make many in a postmodern world uncomfortable.  But Christians follow Jesus not because of a belief in universal human goodness or the commonality of our faiths.  We love God — thus we love our neighbors — because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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6 Responses to Should Christians Try to Convert Others? (part two)

  1. Lois says:

    If you were to ask me this in my mid twenties I would have said no, it was not our right convert anyone; only Gods. As I age gracefully, I see the bigger picture within my own life spiritually, but within life around me. It is no longer a worry to be thought of a cool and hip, just to be thought of at all is a great love. I am no longer afraid to voice my opinions within my faith to those who are or are not believers of the same ways. Of course, I talk with anyone who is physically or spiritually different or lost. What I refuse to do is push my beliefs onto anyone. Within all conversation, there are times to involve God’s words, but subtly. I never could tolerate a person being demanding and completely pushy concern faith or anything else. People tend to shut down when religion is mentioned, but pushing it on someone only makes them turn tail and run. Being honest, compassionate, loving, but foremost patient with whomever you speaking to about your faith and the ideals that bring them back home. I do not believe we can conclude another’s belief is false Matthew 7:1 says it all; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

  2. Janice says:

    Isn’t it our duty as Christians and members of the family of God to contiually look for people God places in our path with whom we can share the gospel? Paul said, “My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assignhed me by the Lord Jesus — the work of telling others the Good News about God’s kindness and love.” I am like Lois in that people that are pushy concerning faith can really turn people off about God. Patience, love and not judging are qualities that please God.

  3. Birdie Cutair says:

    I agree with Janice. When God places people and situations in our path it is not time for people-pleasing, but to speak the truth in love. Yes, it gets easier as we age, Lois. And I also agree that you cannot (and should not) push somebody into “your way” of thinking. Let God do the work; we are to plant seeds.

  4. Carol Childers says:

    I am replying late because I didn’t get this post yesterday. I only saw it when I replied to Part 3 earlier today.
    Wonder why not? And do I need to indicate that I want to follow the posts each time one of them comes up? I thought one time to say I am following was enough. Help, please!!!
    An element of judging (or shall we call it discernment?) is inherent somewhere in the process of sharing the Good News, else why share it at all?
    Again, this is the challenge of witnessing, is it not? To be loving but truthful
    Tough love!

  5. Karen Schreiber says:

    Wow this is my first visit to the blog. I really appreciated the Tuesday Bible Study group. I have learned so much and I truly believe that God has placed me in my occupation to reach out to women and their families. So, yes Carol tough love is one thing that we need to be aware of but I also agree with Birdie. We should never push people. Their immediate response will be to pull back and run. So, share your love of Christ with your actions. Karen Schreiber

  6. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    I believe and have always tried to use in my work within the Middle East and Asia with Muslims to show respect for their beliefs, faith and cultural aspects of their lives and who they are. One has to remember that most individuals follow and practice and faith that they were introduced to at an early age and by their parents. If I had been born within the Islamic region and my parents and my extended family were all Muslims I would also be a Muslim and believe and follow that faith..
    I have also found that many of the Muslims I have worked, lived within their homes, traveled etc. all showed respect to my Christian faith but did not fully understand why I was not a Muslim.
    My attitude and respect for their beliefs and faith offered me the opportunity to discuss and explain the Christian faith to them. I also found that their understanding of what they had heard about us as Christians was just as un-true as various things I had been told about Islam and their beliefs.
    One can never open a door if their foot is keeping it from opening!
    As I stated in a previous post I had the opportunity to study Islam and Islamic law in both Arabic and English from Islamic scholars and Imams. But I also had the opportunity to study the Qur’an with my Bible. This was a learning experience not only for me but also for my colleagues and my teachers. I hope this posting does not sound like I am boasting for that was not my intention it is merely a personal example that expresses how and why I have enjoyed and grown so within my own faith by taking the opportunity to experience someone else s personally. Yes, I have my prayer carpet and my prayer beads and I was fully covered in my Abaah and my veil. Abaah is also known as the Burqa or Chador But
    I also left with one of Muslim friends a needle work I did of praying hands which she hung in her bedroom. I was allowed to pray with the women during each of the five prayer times in a day. I was told by one of my colleagues during “Desert Storm” that to see a Muslim praying with a Christian was worth the trip. God works in such mysterious and miraculous ways if we just let Him.
    Everyone has to be comfortable with how, when and where they introduce their beliefs to others.
    Have a blessed night.

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