How Should Believers Respond To Non-Believers?

How should Christians react to those who reject Christ? What does the Bible tell us?

What Not to Do

I have had a few experiences where Christians not only lashed out at one another, but they’ve even resorted to derogatory remarks or comments, and more often than not, it’s over a non-essential area. Surely this must grieve the Holy Spirit and quench His work in us, but it also ruins our witness for Christ. How can we expect to be filled with the Spirit when we’re filled with consternation toward others who don’t agree with us? The Apostle Paul said that it would be far better to be wronged, even if in the right, than to win at all costs. Some of the Christians in Corinth were taking each other to court, and you can be sure, God was grieved over this thing, but so was Paul. He asked, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded” (1st Cor 6:7)? When you speak about Christ, you can win an argument but lose a soul. Which is better? It is far, far better to win a soul than to win an argument. No one that I know of was ever debated into heaven. Jesus never forced Himself on anyone and neither should we. Jesus said, “Come to Me” (Matt 11:28) and not “I will come to you.” If we can talk someone into something, then someone else can talk them out of it. It must be the Spirit of God that quickens them (Eph 2:1) or there is no hope at all, however God can use us as a means to save others, but salvation is fully a work of God. It is just that He allows us the great privilege of entering into the labor. The problem was there were few laborers then which is why Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more laborers because the harvest is so great and the laborers are so few (Matt 9:38). Today, there is still the need for more laborers.

Just as They Were

If a believer ever thinks that they were special and that’s why God called them, they had better stop and immediately repent of that thought. It’s possible they don’t’ understand their calling. God didn’t choose Israel because they were greater, but in fact, they were the least of the nations and the perpetual underdog in the world’s eyes, but that’s exactly why God chose them. It was so that He would receive the glory. It was the same reason that God parred down Gideon’s army to 300. If we think we are better, we are actually resisting God, because God is opposed to the proud and gives His grace only to the humble (James 4:6). We are no better than anyone, especially the unsaved. When we begin to esteem ourselves as better than others, we are living contrary to the will of God (Phil 2:3-8). Even Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, so Paul jogs our memory and wants us to remember, that “some of such were” were at one time, when he lists the sins that most of the world does (and we did at one time). We read that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1st Cor 6:9-10), but we’re not to look down on others who do those things, because “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1st Cor 6:11). That’s the only difference between us and unbelievers. God choose us (Eph 1), and not we choosing Him. God simply set His love upon us (Rom 5:8), and perhaps He on those who still yet disbelieve. It is only because of God’s grace that we’re still not living that way and have God’s wrath abiding on us (John 3:36b). It’s not because of us, but because of Who He is, and Who we are in relation to Him. The Christian cannot claim superiority, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1st Cor 1:26-27), so in fact, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1st Cor 1:28).

Love-your-enemies-and-do (2)

God the Evangelist

If we think we can convince others about Christ, we don’t realize that it is God Who calls us into His kingdom (John 6:44). If it were up to us, none of us could be saved, but God can use us as a means to save others if we will let Him. We should understand that it is God Who must quicken them in order for them to understand Who Jesus is and why they need Him. And, the power is in the gospel, not in us (Rom 1:16; 1st Cor 1:18), so we simply have to share the Word and let the Spirit of God work in their hearts. It takes the Word of God and the Spirit of God to make the children of God, so it’s all about God, but it’s our involvement that God uses as part of the means to save some. It is not our responsibility to save anyone; it is their response to His ability, even though it is our responsibility to tell them. That much we know (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

Responding Like Jesus

If we truly seek to be more Christ-like, we will react like Christ did. Jesus tells us how to respond in the Beatitudes: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28), so “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31). That’s not difficult to understand. We treat people the way we would want to be treated, even if we’re not treated that way. Jesus says, “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). That’s how to be like God. Be forgiving, even when people don’t deserve it, for neither did we (Rom 5:6-10)! If we only love those who love us (which of course we should), we’re no different from the world. It is only when we love our enemies, pray for God to bless them that curse us, and do good to them that mistreat us, we more like Christ. We must give people respect. God is no respecter of persons and neither should we (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11).


I wrote this to admonish myself first, and then hopefully, admonish other believers to speak with kindness and with gentleness and respect when giving others the reason you have hope in Christ (1st Pet 3:15). Without giving people respect, how can we ever expect them to listen to us? It is more important to be respected for your beliefs than to be popular for them, but even if we’re not respected, we must show respect to others. To respond in kind is to destroy your witness for Christ. Christians can be very un-Christ-like at times. I know. I’ve done it. I admit it. I have friends who are Christian, atheists, and agnostics, and who are of various other religions, and for my past blunders, I apologized, and to others, I asked them to forgive me for causing offense. Now I strive to respond more like Christ.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is host of Spiritual Fitness and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • Satanic_Panic

    Without giving people respect, how can we ever expect them to listen to us?

    By offering actual evidence that your beliefs, religious assertions and just-so-stories are actually true. You can be “respectful” till you’re blue in the face and if you’re still intent on spouting unevidenced assertions and nonsense we’re not going to listen to you anyway.

    • pud

      Spot on

    • Jack Wellman

      We are going to respect you regardless, but this is not what the article is about, so you’re off on another rabbit hole.

  • Nick Winters

    The interesting question to me is whether you can separate out respect for others and respect for others’ beliefs. While I do think that it is possible through compartmentalization, active prostelyzation is inherently disrespectful to others’ beliefs because it is predicated on “your beliefs are false”.

    This is of course different than answering “what do you believe?” But if you are actively bringing up your faith with conversion in mind, I don’t think respect is possible.

    Plus I agree with Satanic_Panic in that the number one way to interact with non-believers is to work within their evidentiary context. I disagree at a fundamental level with believers, so arguing using bible verses is useless unless you can demonstrate that the bible is a reliable source of truth.

  • pud

    “Respect” is earned it is not a right. You do not deserve “respect” because you make you living lying to people especially children. You perpetuate a lie. You make your wages by convincing the stupid and credulous that they are disgusting filthy rotten to the core and deserve eternal suffering….unless they sign up for your magical cure! Believe in absolute nonsense! Swallow the words from a primitive book who you don’t even know the authors of! Buy into a false promise of some invisible realm if they only forsake their critical faculties!

    No, you should respond to “non believers” with a request for forgiveness for indoctrinating the most vulnerable people and especially innocent children who you fill from birth with your twisted cult dogma


    • jamesparson

      I look at it this way. People deserve respect. Ideas may be anywhere from respectable to contemptible. Let’s see how this applies here

  • pud

    An excellent rational discussion demonstrating the warped theology of christians…particularly the sham that is their doctrine of shame and guilt and how their entire cult relies on self deprecation laced with false promises

  • cjaym

    I can’t answer how believers should think about non-believers, but, for me, the best thing to do is to leave me alone. This may sound harsh, but I never asked for churches to incessantly knock on my door, trying to recruit me to their church, nor can I seem to get them to stop (largely because of the large number of churches in the NC town I live in), and I don’t go around trying to get people to stop going to church. I don’t care if they have their services, private events, or whatever, but stop trying to pull me into it. If I wanted to join or rejoin the faith, I’d show up at a church on my own.

    I almost feel bad about the wording of this, as it feels like the harshest reply I’ve put forward on this site, but I don’t know how else to express it.

    • Treyarnon

      I can imagine how intrusive and frustrating that must be. I’ve only experienced Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors here in England, and always find it very unpleasant. I feel my privacy and security is subtly violated whenever it happens and hope another family member are feeling strong enough to deal with it. It’s important to be gracious but it’s still pushing the limits of what’s acceptable. As you say, if you wanted to explore what they offer you are perfectly capable and willing to go along and find out by your own volition.

      In the end it’s just bad manners for them to force themselves on others in this way.

    • Satanic_Panic

      So called “swear words” work great. Unleash the fury of the F-bomb. Religious nutters will never bother you again.

      • Erp

        But it will confirm for them that we non-members of their tribe aren’t worth listening to (and may confirm the same to third parties). Just as the knocking on doors confirms our opinions of their tribe (and may do the same for third parties).

        I’ll note that ‘respect’ has several meanings and it is important to be clear which is being used. The respects of “earning respect” and “showing respect”” are often different. The former assumes different levels of outward courtesy and, more importantly, of inward attitude towards different people. The latter is emphasizing outward courtesy which might assume different levels “show respect for the priest” or not “show respect to everyone”.

        Personally I would use outward courtesy barring extreme situations (e.g., they are telling a grieving third party that their loved one who has died is burning in hell). Vice versa it is not appropriate to tell a grieving Christian that their love one is gone forever (unless they demand your honest and full opinion). Note outward courtesy does not preclude when they knock on the door honestly telling them that you do not wish to listen and, if they persist, that they’ve made the Bible, a work of human hands, an idol. Now there are Christians who do recognize the Bible is a work of human hands; however, they are extremely unlikely to be front door evangelizing.

        • Satanic_Panic

          Not interested. I don’t come to their house to bother them – Jehova’s and Mormon’s go out of their way to trespass on my property and waste my time with jeebus bullshite. Ever since I told those nutters to go fck themselves they haven’t been back. Easy, peasy pudding pie.

      • ScruffOz

        That certainly works. Any religious person knocking on my door is severely abused. Unless they bring their kids with them. Then I tell the kids nicely that their parents are completely wrong in everything they have ever said about their religion. And inform the adults they are engaging in child abuse.
        Even when these groups are in the street, they now know not to knock.

        • Lark62

          What is sad but true, this is the only way to get them to respect your wishes and your privacy.

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you my friend. You put it well. The only reason they are incessant is because they care about those who live behind those doors.

      • Maltnothops

        “The only reason they are incessant is because they care about those who live behind those doors.”

        You are contradicting yourself. As you wrote a couple months ago about proselytizing:

        “The risk of course is if all you’ve done in your life as a believer is to remain silent about Christ, He might deny you before the Father and the holy angels.”

        So you recognize that Christians have a selfish motive for knocking on doors of people who prefer to be left alone. (To be fair, you also indicated that Jesus denying someone before himself and the angels was no impediment to getting into heaven.)

        By the way, thanks for your upvote on my comment about the immorality of the golden rule.

      • ScruffOz

        While I can’t know the mind of the religious, I have absolutely no doubt that their motivation is purely selfish.

      • jamesparson

        No they don’t. They don’t care.

        They want my time and money.

      • Jehovah’s witnesses don’t care about those who live behind those doors. All they care about is another scalp for their cult and, once they have them within the fold, they brainwash them with their propaganda. If anyone dares leave, they ostracise them and sometimes harass them.

    • jamesparson

      Leave me alone too.

  • Maltnothops

    “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31).)

    I’ve never understood why the “golden rule” is thought to be a guide to either moral or polite behavior. It isn’t. It is pure arrogance and self-centeredness. A far better guide is “do not do unto others as they do not wish to be done unto.” That requires one to consider the wishes of other people while the golden rule is self-referential.

    How should a Christian treat a non-Christian? As the non-Christian wishes to be treated.

    • Alex Voon

      “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31).) is the main objective of the laws and the prophets which we, Christians must adhere i.e. to do good but must not do evil.
      How should a Christian treat a non-Christian? Do good to them.
      How should Christians react to those who reject Christ? Do good to them. Be subtle as a snake but harmless as a dove. Ignore and leave them alone ( kick off your feet’s dust ) but we can pray for them as we do not know if one day they will accept Christ.

      • Maltnothops

        Yup, there’s that arrogance.

        • Alex Voon

          Brother, come back to God. In times of needs, ask God to help you. I have received God blessings and help in times of needs (God help me many times).

          • jamesparson

            It times of needs (which is always), I am confidant he will try figure things out.

          • Alex Voon

            I encourage you to honestly pray to Jesus and see if something do happen.