Anyone familiar with the Christian bible is aware that Christians have been called to "make disciples of all nations." I am aware that the bulk of believers take this to mean that they are to witness to the power of Christ to save us from hell and to encourage everyone to embrace a relationship with him.
If you are NOT a Christian, what does this mean to you? I ask because I once heard a devout believer mention that there is no record in scripture of Jesus interacting with those who did not believe in God (agnostic or atheist). Is it because we are not called to witness to everyone? Are we called to witness to those who ask for a reason for our hope and to simply DO what we have been called to do in the hope that someone will open a door for us to witness to Christ in our life? Would we be better off to simply encourage those who are already walking with Christ and truly effect the change in our life and our world that he hoped for, or are we truly expected by God to provide the proof of his existence to unbelievers? If that is the case, why does he not provide the tools we need to do so easily?
It means that Christianity is a man made religion, and that the authors of the bible wanted to make sure the followers always sought out more recruits to keep the religion going.
Maybe, He doesn't exist.
So, given that you easily countenance the idea that no god (in this case, the Christian god) exists, would you prefer to simply be left alone about the issue or have someone attempt to prove the existence of God? (Yeah, I'm kinda setting you up, but be nice...lol)
I would welcome any believer to justify the existence of their god, no matter if it be the Christian god or any other god. But, since all gods are mythological, there's really no point in it. They will always fail.
I think we will always fail to prove it too. But I don't know that he ever intended for us to try.
I can prove, however, that my faith has changed me. I can prove that I am a better person for believing. I can prove that it has seen me through struggles I'd have never survived otherwise. I can prove that when I've walked away from it, I've suffered tremendous grief and hardship with no sense of purpose. Does that make faith such a horrible thing?
I'm quite sure you could have accomplished all that and much more without faith in a god. Faith in gods is very limiting and does not allow someone to fully realize their potential.
Oh, I can agree in some instances, but I know my limitations. I'd have become a very bitter and very angry person in some instances, had I not had faith to sustain me. Seriously.
I don't think so, considering you have faith in an invisible, undetectable being, you say you accomplished much, just think what you might accomplish if you had faith in something real.
There is no need to have faith in what's real.
I trust in certain "real" things to help me along, and they often do. I'm sort of a take it where you can get it kinda girl. But faith is one of those tools that I've been given that has helped me to reach out when on my own, I'd have refused to do so. It's moved me to do things that I most certainly didn't "feel" like doing. That sorta thing. And doing those things has made me better than I was before.
You might have a point here, ATM. I think that faith really might limit someone's potential. It might be used as a crutch, or as an excuse to be closed-minded.
I can agree with that to a point...in saying that immaturity (in faith or in general) can make that happen. I have been through stages such as this as I've matured in faith. I had to come to the understanding that I am who I am - whether I believe or don't. I often rebel against the faith as a crutch idea as it basically says that faith makes life easier...but that is not the case. It makes us look for a purpose for our struggles, IMO, rather than just accepting it as random circumstances.
I have many...many, many, many...difficult circumstances in my life. I have finally stopped railing against the unfairness of it all and begun to embrace them as opportunities for growth, both as a person and as a believer.
Oh, and, guys, thank you so much for being so reasonable about this discussion. I really appreciate it.
"have many...many, many, many...difficult circumstances in my life. I have finally stopped railing against the unfairness of it all and begun to embrace them as opportunities for growth, both as a person and as a believer."
I like this statement. I'm not quite there yet. I'm glad you are:) I would love to be at this point. I can see it, but can't quite reach it yet. You are an inspiration.
Thank you. I'll admit that I'm not quite "there" yet. I still have pretty shitty days where I get really annoyed with God. Kind of an attitude of how much longer, or, seriously? Again? Gimme a damn break!
But they get fewer and farther between, thankfully. And I have to say, having been an observer of your struggles recently, I'm fairly inspired myself. You have encountered a level of honesty with yourself and others that's almost heroic.
I don't think the Bible tells Christians that they have to proselytize, since there are many denominations that don't. To my memory, I've never had a Lutheran or Methodist come to my door with pamphlets, but I have plenty of Jehovah's Witnesses. Are Lutherans less Christian than JWs? Perhaps according to JWs they are. I think it all depends on the particular denomination and how they spin the Bible.
I agree that we are not called to proselytize. I think witnessing and evangelism (personally) mean something entirely different. I don't see a need to knock on doors, pass out tracts, preach on street corners or online forums. I do believe that I am called to live a life as close to the model of Christ as I am able, but to only actually discuss the issue if invited to do so.
I think the real definition of both witness and testimony needs to be looked at. A witness is someone who is ASKED about their experiences. The testimony is a response to those questions asked. Neither is given without someone else asking to hear.
In short, if nobody asked you, you shouldn't be talking
Then what other interpretation would you give to Matthew 28:19
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
One could, I suppose, suggest that the translation 'make disciples' comes from the words teach and baptize--thus only relating to those who come forth and ask for it--but it seems a stretch.
And that's where I really wonder. It just seems so contrary to who Jesus is to believe that he wants us to go and force faith on someone for fear of hell or retribution. And ... Can't we do what he did and share with those who seem interested and leave the rest of the world alone? A God as powerful as we Christians believe ours to be will surely lead people to faith in his time...do we need to force the issue?
*Edit-and Jesus commanded us to love God and our neighbor. We can't teach that better by example than anything else?
I would hope so. But I have always preferred the Quaker approach to these things. I have known two Quakers from completely different countries but they were both the very best kind of human being. It almost makes me wonder if they are onto something.
I'm not Christian and was not raised such, so I don't know what they believe the Bible tells them to believe or how to act. I can only relate my experience that I've never been bothered by certain denominations, while others have been annoyingly aggressive in their evangelism. That leads me to believe that different sects interpret things differently, and put different levels of importance on different passages. The OP was directed at non-Christians, this is my answer.
I have a question. In the beginning of Luke 15, Jesus was eating with "tax collectors and sinners". Is it unreasonable to think that maybe some unbelievers would be among those sinners?
Not at all. I have a feeling though that he wasn't evangelizing or forcing talk of religion on any of them. That he was a man of known holiness who engaged with them without preaching, judging - that as such he didn't shun them and treat them like they were "less than" is what made them want to be in his company.
My issue isn't that one shouldn't share their faith if they truly feel led - but let someone really see who you are and wonder what makes you different. IMO, service and kindness, compassion and non judgment are real evangelism. People tune out what they don't want to hear.
I agree. If a Christian wants to make believers of others, the best way is not to talk about the life, but simply live it
I agree with that. It does seem that some do not realize that in their efforts to scare (or evangelize) others into becoming Christians, their approach is actually doing the opposite
Christ lives and still appeals to us with his "Follow me" and his admonition to be "even as I am." Spreading the Gospel may mean different things to different people, and be done in every different tongue and nation. Doing so is as simple as sharing God's command to love Him with heart, mind, and soul; and, our neighbor as ourselves, as Christ illustrated with the parable of the good Samaritan. It is not critical how we do that, only that we do it.
On one hand, I agree completely. But it's the "sharing the command" part that's unsettling for me. Verbally? With tracts? Or solely by example?
Those two commandments were cited as the great commands, encompassing all the law and the prophets. They were given to a man asking what is the great commandment in the law, and what must he do to inherit eternal life. Would you speak to a neighbor? Would you give a neighbor something to read, if you thought it would benefit her? Certainly you would be an example as opposed to being a hypocrite. The printing press had yet to be invented, so there were no tracts at that time, but once it was in use Bibles could be printed and the plowboy could read the scriptures for himself and for his family. Now the invention of the computer allows you the freedom to express yourself in this modern way, but actions are still needed for Christ's message to reach all mankind in keep with what has been called "The Great Commission." We can discuss, but more importantly we can do. Your choice and mine, but do.
The two greatest commands are to love God and to love each other. The Great Commission is altogether different. If I choose to do those two things, but choose not to witness with words, in any way, I am still obeying God, am I not? I think you and I are pretty much on the same page here.
Part of my point is that the discussion of God between one who believes, or who is open to belief, is entirely different than with someone who doesn't. And Jesus really didn't give any examples for how to encounter and proceed with those who didn't believe - so maybe as Christians, we ought not engage in faith based conversations with those folks. Seems like a less than necessary goal.
Don't misunderstand. You and others with whom I engage in conversation are hugely important to me, but convincing you of God's existence isn't. It's not an ulterior motive in talking with you or being interested in you. I just happen to like you. I also happen to love and consider family others who are not believers. We discuss matters of faith occasionally, but not to the end that I'm attempting to convert.
I think that Jesus led by example, not by coercion. Therein lies the difference.
If a religion is really true, it doesn't need to use sales tactics. Followers need only be a living example of it's teachings to help others see and understand the truth in that way of life.
I am in love with the points made in both of your posts. This is something I often have a hard time explaining to Christian brothers and sisters. Prior to embracing Christianity, I had the same experiences and absolutely hated it! Thank you so much for being honest.
I have nothing but respect for Christians like you, who live your faith rather than trying to use it as a weapon and trap to score some imaginary points.
I try. It's a two-edged sword, sometimes. Some feel it's unchristian and that my faith isn't secure and that I am ignoring the real call of Christ...to be liked. Others feel like no matter what I DO, it's going to be tainted forever the instant I say I'm a Christian. But it's the only honest way for me to be.
The woman who introduced me to the Jesus I know is an evangelical fundamental, charismatic, spirit-filled believer of the snake handling, tongue speaking variety...we couldn't be MORE different. She loves me like crazy, and I return the affection. But you know what she said to make me a believer? Absolutely nothing. She just acted as much like Jesus as she could-all the time. And I wanted what she had.
Years later, I'm so grateful to have paid attention.
I am not a Christian myself--but I still think the meaning or universality of 'the great commission' must be effected by the text of the commission itself.
Since you asked for the opinion of non-Christians, I will throw in my 2 cents before even reading other responses here. I think proselytizing is an institutional gimmick, and the height of arrogance.
It's a gimmick because it reminds me of, like, spam. Like someone getting a high-pressure salesman job and the high-pressured salesman training drilling it into them that they need to go out and recruit friends. "You'll be doing them a favor!" they might say, and true the new salesman who is all idealistic about his situation might think so, but the real reason behind it is the company wants more sales to benefit the company-- not to do anyone any favors.
I think it's arrogant-- and I do mean soul-sucking arrogance -- because the proselytizer has to go into it with a POV of superiority and without regard for the other person's most profound understandings of life. To me it'd be the equivalent of someone coming in and telling you that you should disown your spouse or family because they really suck, you just never knew it. It's telling you all the most meaningful experiences you've had with them are purely an illusion, and they don't really care about you after all.
There's nothing wrong with talking about religion to people who want to know about it, but trying to convince others who don't even ask that their relationships with their Gods are completely phony because your experience is different - I can't think of anything more vain, condescending and rude.
I find it wrong and deeply, deeply offensive.
Then simply say "I'm not interested" and that person you describe as "vain, condescending, and rude" will move on to someone potentially more receptive of what they lovingly want to share.
Do you really believe that? That rarely happens. I've been a practicing Catholic since my adult commitment to Christ 18 years ago. People of evangelical denominations still witness to me. And continue to do so even when I tell them that I know Jesus and have a personal relationship with him and have been baptized....yada, yada, yada. I'm a Christian and they don't leave me alone. Do you have any idea how persistent they can be with someone who doesn't believe or says they aren't interested. People don't want to hear it. So, I think it falls on us Christians then to SHOW them Christ.
How do you show someone Christ? Do you mean, to act and behave in a Christlike manner?
Showing the joy of Christianity is surely every Christian's responsiblity and it creates opportunities to witness by behaving correctly. Being demanding of another's time is not treating a neighbor as you want to be treated. We all have room for improvement and improving as we grow into the full stature of our Christianity. I, for one, hope to keep trying to do so.
I just think it's something that we shouldn't approach people about. They should see something unique in us that makes them want to know what's happening.
Christian evangelists have never shown any joy of Christianity. They only show how incredibly disrespectful, rude and arrogant they have become as a result of Christianity.
So all Muslims should start sharing the joy of Allah with you? And all Hindus should start sharing the joy of Brahma? And all Asartru should start sharing the joy of Frey and Freya with you? And all Dianic Witches should start sharing the joy of the Goddess with you?
When are you going to start scheduling appointments so you can allow others the opportunity to be loving to you.
There's nothing "lovingly" in the actions of an evangelist, it is selfishness.
As well, we are tired of every Tom, Dick and Harry evangelist telling us we need Jesus and having to tell each and every one of them, "I'm not interested."
So, how many times are we supposed to tell Christian evangelists that so they just keep it to themselves?
It's not "loving" -- it's selfish, vain, arrogant, egocentric and short-sighted. Not to mention reeks of one's own spiritual insecurities.
Personally, i don't think Christians are supposed to evangelize. I think, their actions should be witness to their faith. A life well lived, an existence truly at peace, is a powerful statement. To love your neighbor as yourself would be something worth others hoping to emulate. More powerful than the gloom and doom preaching. But, everyone wants to be an apostle and, unfortunately, they model themselves after Paul. The first of the whiny believers who had an insecure need to be validated.
Emile, I like that. Paul sure had his good points, not the least of which was amazing faith and dedication, but even he admitted to having his own struggles.
You made the biggest point in that we should be modeling ourselves on Jesus. Not Paul, or Peter, or David, or Abraham, or anyone else. Thanks!
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