Why does the idea of simply trying to follow Jesus, loving others, and NOT trying to convert people upset so many Christians? I posed this question on social media and naturally it rubbed quite a few people the wrong way.
“What about the Great Commission? What about preaching the gospel?” they said.
Why has the goal of conversion overridden the Great Command of Jesus? You know, that love others thing that he said was on par with loving God. I mean, if I am going to go out and teach the things Jesus taught, wouldn’t it revolve around bold love?
The Christian agenda to “get” people is so weird to me. Having these strategizing meetings to best figure out how they can convert whomever and convince them of the “truth” they hold. I imagine Christians having a conversation with whomever non-Christian they want to convert, sitting there not listening but waiting for any chance to strategically insert their beliefs. It’s uncomfortable–that’s not how normal people have a conversation.
I’m not saying to never talk about your faith and beliefs. I really like Jesus and I talk about him all the time, but not with the agenda to convert anyone–that’s where it gets weird. Awkwardly inserting your religious ideals or straight up arguing why someone needs Jesus so they won’t go to hell is kind of creepy.
What if, instead of focusing so much on how we can convert, we focused all that energy on how we can love more boldly, like Jesus? Seriously, have meetings to figure out how to love our neighbors better. There are people out there doing this and they are changing the world and people actually like hanging out with them.
When we have a goal of conversion, we put ourselves on a pedestal. We have the “truth” and they need it from us. That’s not the way of Jesus. That’s the way of Manifest Destiny; it gives us a fabricated sense of power as if we are the savior. Come on now, we are a mess, we can’t save the soul of anyone and God doesn’t need us to.
American Christians, you have a really bad reputation in this world. Do you think that maybe the lack of focus on the Great Command of Jesus might be to blame? Maybe too much obsession with an awkward interpretation of the Great Commission?
While sitting in a café in southern Iraq, my husband was once told that during the war in Iraq, the US would bomb their cities, sometimes killing their friends and family. Then, shortly after, American missionaries would walk around handing out Bibles trying to “save their souls.” Do you think the Iraqis wanted anything to do with that God?
There are amazing organizations in Iraq and other nations that focus on boldly loving first. Organizations that are dedicated to responding in war torn areas that no one else dares to go, purely out of love, not in an attempt to convert. What looks more like the ways and love of Jesus?
If we are not motivated by red letter love, everything we do means nothing. But if we love first, we can truly be the change our world desperately needs. Regardless of how many Christians are mad at me for not “preaching the gospel,” I choose simply to try to love boldly and not live to convert.
Photo by Sheri Faye Rosendahl.
Sheri Faye Rosendahl is a writer, lover of bold love, the Middle East, Yoga, and cookies. You can find more of her writing at NotYourWhiteJesus.org or find her on Facebook. Sheri and her husband, Rich, also run a non-profit called The Nations, doing peace and humanitarian work with refugee neighbors from the Middle East both domestically and abroad.