It seems we—those of us who attend church regularly and/or who call ourselves Christians—are living with a preoccupation of the “end times” or “last days”. We see the signs everywhere. “Oh, did you see that “X” happened just the other day? We must be living in the end times!” Therefore, it seems imperative to us to promote this “conversion” culture–bringing everyone we know to God. Now! To “save” the world. Today!
But it seems to me our delivery might be a bit off.
The “easy” road in converting people is to claim that those far from God are bad, they’re sinners, they need a savior (cue superhero fanfare!). And, because they’re bad and sinners and need a savior, they should repent. Now! Or they’re gonna go to hell for ever and ever, amen!
So we badger, pester, guilt them, and they start to feel bad (those we don’t totally alienate–driving them completely away from Jesus) and out of this sense of guilt, or shame, or maybe even to just get us off their backs, they say the “sinner’s prayer” and now “Woo Hoo!!” we think we’ve done our job! Pat ourselves on the back! Check another box in the “saved” category! Move on to the next lost soul!
Except . . .
Could it be we’ve missed a few things?
Like: What it means to accept Christ into your life? What it looks like to follow God? What it means to get into relationship, not only with God, but with other believers as well?
In other words, by bestowing on them the magical “get out of hell free” card, could it be we’ve only dared scratch the surface? We’ve given them nothing but the preface of this great book called “Redemption”, and possibly neglected the rest of the story?
Like . . . The important part!
Now I’m not saying that a big part of our role as Christians is not to share the Good News. Or that there aren’t bad people in the world. Or that there isn’t a hell (in whatever form it may look like).
I’m also not making light of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. I’m not saying that there aren’t sinners. Or that the world doesn’t need a savior.
We ALL are. And we ALL do. In fact, I kinda side with Paul here:
1 Timothy 1:15
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.
But why “seek and save what was lost”? Why “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”? Why “teach [them] to obey all the commands I have given you.”?
To get out of hell free? ~ That’s a fringe benefit in the grand scheme, not to mention selling God’s desire for reconciliation waaaaayyy too short.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
God’s desire isn’t to convert us. It isn’t to merely get us out of hell. It’s to free us from the bonds of slavery (of sin, worry, doubt, fear, etc.) that we’re in; to live in relationship with Him. And with others.
The reason is relationship.
We were made for relationship: Made for a relationship with our Creator; and made for a relationship with His creation ~ that means each other, the world, and everything in it.
We are made for a relationship with God.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need. (NKJV)
What this means, essentially, is to look to Him first. He is the creator and holder of everything. (He has everything you need.) He also happens to be omniscient. (He knows everything you need. Not want. Need.) Looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you have. More importantly, looking to Him first allows you to be at peace with all you don’t have.
We are made for a relationship with each other.
Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually]. For Christ did not please Himself [gave no thought to His own interests] (AMP)
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
Christianity isn’t a solo project. We can’t just convert people and send them on their merry way, content in the knowledge that they’ll figure it out as they go. They’re newborns in their faith; infants in their walk with Christ.
1 Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
Merely converting people solely so they can be saved from an eternal damnation is doing them the utmost disservice. Further, its robbing them of the essence of joy, comfort and peace available within the relationship of a loving God and His people. If mass conversion is your sole purpose in sharing the gospel, you’re no better than those phantom “evangelists” who litter various bookstores and retail shops with their fake $1,000,000 bills and “can you answer these questions?” pamphlets. (I worked in a bookstore for ten years; I have a right to call this stuff “litter”. And, I know who you are!)
So, if you think that by merely “converting” people, your job as a Christian is done, you’ve got a few phone calls to make; you’ve got a few relationships to rekindle. Walk with them. Get to know them. Answer their (many) questions. Build the relationship. Be the “lamp to guide [their] feet and a light for [their] path.”
As you share the gospel with your family, your friends and/or your neighbors, I hope you have many opportunities to lead those people into a relationship: closer to you, and closer to Him as well. But please don’t think your job is then over.
Jesus never called us to convert or convict people. That’s not our job anyway. It’s His. And He’s really good at it. What He does call us to do is make disciples, and that’s a long, slow, wonderful, amazing, life-changing process.
It also happens to affect the person you walk with as well.
Relationships are like that.
(* all Bible texts NLT unless otherwise noted.)