Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

Christians find themselves in and interesting conundrum. On one side, we have an omnipotent, all-powerful loving Creator God who gave us our lives, and is telling us to spread news of His glory to all nations and people. On the other side, we do this so often to some people that we end up killing any chance of outreach to them. I'm ashamed to say that I’ve refrained myself from witnessing to people purely on the basis that I’m afraid I may annoy said people to the point that a more skilled evangelist would lose the chance to convince them of the truth. I also have a connected paranoia that I may say something badly, thereby closing said people's minds to someone who could better articulate my message.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed many other people who take the exact opposite stance on this. I’ve been at many a fair, and I’ve seen dozens of evangelists (usually teenagers) hand me a small pamphlet that gives me a roadmap to salvation. On one side, the pamphlet tells me I’m doing wrong. Then it kindly tells me that the only way to not do wrong is to believe in Jesus. After that is usually a long list of things I must do to absolve my sins, and the last paragraph tells me I must not sin anymore, under penalty of repeating steps 3-8. All written in Comic Sans, yellow font for good things, red for bad things. As if telling someone they may be damned for eternity is a light-hearted conversation.
Recently, a series of people, myself included, fell into this trap. Cory Jones' photo shows a conversation between a professor and a student, in which the professor seems to receive the lesson from the student. I reposted it, finding it inspirational, but soon researched the content on the tip-off of a friend and found it to be written by a Christian, containing circular logic that didn't actually prove anything. It's a great thing to show off to your Christian friends, but it's a thing that turns away those who question God. It's a shame that instances like this lead to the degradation of the legitimacy of evangelical types.
There's also another stigma in Christian evangelistic campaigns: when they happen, they usually happen in small, heavily concentrated areas, are obnoxious, and generally ignore the opposition. They hurriedly give you a pamphlet, and run off, determined to give away the stack in their hand. This leads to me, and a whole bunch of other people, annoyed at the growing pile of dropped pamphlets on the ground. One of my new friends, who happens to be an Agnostic, related this to me, and I sympathize. Nothing's more annoying than an evangelical Christian who ignores the people it witnesses to.
I bring to the table a proposal for my Christian family. Witnessing is sometimes best in large groups, in massive initiatives. Sadly, though, I’ve found telling somebody the word of God is best done in a small group, doctoring your message to the person's specific needs. A pamphlet will be disregarded; a megaphone ignored. I rather propose this: take a cardboard sheet, and write on the front: “It's A Great Day.” When asked, then tell them the good news. On a one-on-one basis. It's not a pamphlet that grabs their attention, it's a person. It's hard to disregard a human.
And to the angry at the Christian body: I’m sorry. It's hard to ignore the Great Commission given to me by the God Almighty: “Tell everyone about me. No exceptions.” (abridged version of the Commission). In the attempt to tell the world about Him, I often times forget the people I’m witnessing to. If I do so, then I’ll understand if you ignore me. But please, at the very least, the Christian faith is a good life philosophy. Don't close yourself to it.
Oops, I got a bit preachy. This is dedicated to Mitchell Jones. May you come to Christ on your own time, the time He wills you to know Him. Not the time I wish to have you come to know Him. It's your soul, after all. I’m just here to try and suggest a place for it to go. 

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