About sixteen years ago, God personally drew me to him and transformed me from the inside out. In recent posts (here and here), I chronicled what he did to draw me, but in this post I want to focus on a different aspect: what he didn’t do to draw me.
I was twenty-two and living a life totally separate from God — a prime candidate for a well-meaning Christian to call out my sinful behavior. But that Christian didn’t show up. Never was I criticized or judged for my stupidity. No one told me I needed to get right with God or I was going to Hell. And not one person ever took me to a fire, pointed at it, and said, “You think that’s hot?”
None of that.
In fact, if anyone had confronted me, it probably would’ve hardened my heart and made me less likely to seek answers in church or from the Bible. I would’ve heard in that message what most of the world hears when they are openly confronted: “You must live my way, or you’re doomed forever.”
That, of course, isn’t the actual message being delivered by Christians, but it is generally what many of us hear when we are presented with it. And it’s a message we will reject almost every time.
I know this from personal experience, including after I became a Christian. Bubbling inside me was a real and relevant faith I was anxious to share with everyone, starting with my closest friends. But instead of allowing my new faith to be manifested in my actions and attitude, I sprayed a fire hose of “Christianese” at them, sometimes when they least expected it. Once I blindsided two of my friends, keeping the poor guys up until 5:30 in the morning, talking about sin, Jesus, and eternity, when all they had wanted was a warm place to stay the night after watching another of our friends get married.
It didn’t go well.
God — not I — is the one who draws people to himself (John 6:44). That doesn’t mean I don’t play a role; I do. It is to share my faith and the Truth of Christ when the opportunity presents itself, when a person is sincerely seeking God and wants to hear about him. Now I trust God to make those opportunities clear and then give me the right words to speak. Anything beyond that is of my own doing and will inevitably turn out poorly, as it did with my friends.
That also doesn’t mean we don’t speak out against the obvious evils in society, especially when the least of these are being oppressed; but nitpicking the world on every aspect of their lives will never present them an attractive picture of Jesus. It’ll always be interpreted as trying to get them to live by our rules — and people don’t like rules (including me). It’s why the church in the world’s eyes is generally not seen as the people who sacrificially care for others, loving with reckless abandon, and living with passionate purpose in every step. Instead, the church has become the crusty old bunch who commands you to stop drinking, smoking, watching bad movies, having sex before marriage, and every other kind of “fun.” We are known too much for what we are against and not what we are for.
Instead of spending so much time criticizing those outside the church, I’d like to see those inside church follow Paul’s advice and spend more time allowing God to humble and strengthen us (1 Thes. 4:3-8; 11-12). The most attractive picture we can present to a world who doesn’t believe in our God is to show them his love and grace through the way we live, controlled by the power of Christ and his infinite Word. And then, God can work miracles through us, exposing others to their own emptiness and need for him, drawing them to himself — just as he did for me — without our having to criticize or even say a word.