Not that I should be allowed to write rants about evangelism...but this one's got to come out.
I saw an old friend today. Old in "Pamela's life in Japan" terms, which is to say, I've known her for about two years. She's one of the people I would qualify "a seeker" and we used to have a really close relationship. But recently, she dropped off my map. I hadn't seen her in seven months.
Tonight I learned part of the reason I hadn't seen her. I loaned her a Christian book a little more than a year ago, and she had only just worked up the guts to return it. She was worried about the conversation that would follow...something I hadn't expected since part of my early encounters with this friend was her being very excited when I offered to have dinner with her and discuss Christianity.
She has another close Christian friend, and in the course of our conversation I learned something disturbing. Her other friend had made the comment, "I can't really be friends with someone who isn't a Christian." The way my friend took this was to become afraid that if she told me she still wasn't sure about Christianity, she was going to lose my friendship. And so, we have hardly seen each other for about a year. And not at all in six months.
And this is what I have to say about that...is the Kingdom of God such a lie that we need to try to manipulate people into it? Is our God so unlovable that the only way to woe people into His arms is by threatening to remove our own friendship if they don't? Do we honestly expect such tactics to create true Christ followers? Are we running some sort of social club that we get to pick and choose who our love goes to?
The lost are treated as though they are our enemies. But they are not the enemy. They are lost. They are Christ's missing beloved.
I know that I'm really far from perfect. But I look at this situation and think that evangelism based in fear yields a lot of bad things. Maybe because the fear part isn't Gospel...it's the bad news. Are there things to be afraid of? Sure. The thought of a loved one spending eternity in hell actually scares me much less than it probably should. But the ultimate Truth is God. Whatever we see on the surface...whatever we guess is happening with our loved ones...He knows better. Love always hopes and always perseveres. Manipulation, on the other hand, gives the message that truth and love were not strong enough. Which doesn't sound much like the Kingdom of God to me.