Churches Should Reach Unbelievers With Respect

A picture of several persons holding hands to pray
A picture of several persons holding hands to pray (photo:
By Li DaonanFebruary 29th, 2024

A reader shared his confusion with me. Many years ago, he decided to follow Jesus and became a believer in the church. Later, he found a partner who did not believe in Jesus. After they got married, members of the church frequently approached him to evangelize his spouse. However, his wife, while not opposed to believing in God and even respecting Christianity, did not want to believe. The church’s action not only disturbed this family but also troubled him.

When my wife and I first established a romantic relationship, church members, upon learning that my fiancée did not believe in Jesus, often expressed surprise. Some would tactfully say, "You should hurry to evangelize to her and lead her to the Lord!" or "A marriage where both spouses believe in the Lord lasts, as you share the same perspective with a common language. Otherwise, conflicts may arise between worldly and spiritual views." Some believers would directly say, "Believers and unbelievers cannot bear the same yoke!" Initially, she liked Christianity because of me, but over time, she became more and more repelled. This was not only the Bible recitation that bothered her but also believers' distrust toward non-believers and the intimidation of going to hell, as perceived by her.

Similarly, my roommate in college developed an ambiguous relationship with a Christian lady. When my classmate confessed his love to her, she rejected him directly because of his lack of faith. To make my classmate a believer, she sought out believers he knew to evangelize to him. My roommate would not like to rush into this very purposeful faith.

In today's churches, there is a widespread notion that the church is at war with the world, with the church being divine and the world fallen. Evangelism is a spiritual warfare. In conventional warfare, the primary goal is to eliminate the enemy without the need to show respect to them at all.

Jesus, however, was different. When spreading the gospel, he did not force people to accept it, even though he had such power. Especially for women and children, groups not respected in society at that time, Jesus equally respected them, letting them feel the warmth of God’s presence.

With the continuous development of society, people gradually value their rights, and human rights are gradually respected, especially for women and children. This is a result of the historical impact of Jesus. Thus, concepts like privacy rights began to emerge. Along with respect for individuals came the concept of social distance. For example, you should not ask people about their salary, age, or their children's test scores at will. It is forbidden to interfere in others' lives without their permission.

It is a fundamental rule to respect others in the current context of social interaction. However, some churches, in their "loving" communities, repeatedly break social rules, making the gospel gradually lose its flavor. This reflects the anxiety and dilemma of today's churches.

Firstly, from the urgency of spreading the gospel, we can see the church’s anxiety about reaching unbelievers. As the messages preached by the church gradually diverge from the mainstream culture of society, the traditional church’s influence declines. This further increases tension between the church and society while also intensifying societal rejection of Christianity. The number of young people is decreasing, so it is difficult for the church to revive.

Secondly, we see the dilemma of traditional churches stemming from this anxiety. With an anxious mind, believers evangelize without considering others' feelings or basic social distance, making it difficult for others to develop the right attitude toward God. They will not accept the gospel. The more the other party rejects, the stronger the anxiety of traditional churches becomes, which prompts them to evangelize to non-Christians more urgently.

How can we change this situation? We must see if the gospel brings comfort and meets people's needs. Jesus said, "This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." Besides new believers, this fruit also refers to Christian’s warmth and love for others, and his willingness to sacrifice for all.

Therefore, to spread the gospel effectively, Christians should become good neighbors with love, becoming good witnesses to attract people to God.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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