One of the most self-serving misconceptions that religion has promoted is the notion that "God needs ME to reach others for Him." It's almost as if God is the owner of the world's worst MLM company. Central to almost every religion I have studied is the idea that God wants His followers to convert others to that brand of faith. We can all agree that Pepsi and Coke are basically the same thing, just different flavors, but when it comes to religion, my flavor is the only truth.
Another objection I hear very often is, "If we are all going to heaven, then what's the point of telling people about Jesus?" This objection let's you know what the real concern is. One of the catch phrases in Christian circles today is, "It's not about religion, it's about relationship." But when you get right down to it, it's not about relationship; it's actually about heaven. Really, it's not even about going to heaven, it's about avoiding hell. That's why we tell people about Jesus, so that they don't have to go to hell, but if they do, at least we don't feel guilty because we warned them first. This type of thinking makes me want to cuss and spit.
You've probably already thought about this, and that's why this blog appeals to you, but humor me for a second as I walk this path with those who haven't yet. What kind of God is so small that He can't reveal Himself to those He created? How can God call Himself good, if the eternal fate of millions of people rests on whether or not I am obedient and preach to them (with enough charisma that they listen)? How can a God be loving, and yet limit Himself to only those who hear His message, believe it, and then act according to it…within about 80 years of living? How can a God be loving, merciful, or king yet send billions of people He created to hell, all because they were born into a culture that worshipped the "wrong" deity? Or called the right deity by the wrong name?
Clearly, that notion of God poses a big problem for our sense of morality. We would never torture anyone for eternity. Our finite sense of justice stops us from using cruel and unusual punishment even on the most deserving of criminals. How can God not be at least as good as us? Why would God leave the everlasting, forever and ever destiny of someone else in my hands? The pressure alone is enough to be considered torment to anyone with a conscience.
My answer to this very complex and challenging dilemma is simple. God didn't, God wouldn't, God doesn't, and God won't. Okay, maybe that wasn't simple, but it's the answer I've got. The very "Holy Book" that Christians claim to hold as their guide paints a very different picture than what many preachers share.
Check out the eighth chapter of the book of Hebrews. It says that everyone will know God Himself, from the least to the greatest. This is His doing and He doesn't need anyone else to do the teaching. As a bonus, He even says that He won't remember sin or iniquity, mistakes and intentional wrongdoing, any more. Wow!
(I've got a great video teaching on this idea. Watch it here.)
God doesn't need you to tell anyone about Him. He is big enough to be known by all of humanity without your help. What an amazing concept. God is actually big enough to be God. I know that I am being somewhat sarcastic, but if you knew how much being a soul-winner was drilled into me as a new Christian, you'd understand how revolutionary that idea is in my world.
Understand that there is a difference between sharing God with others out of a personal desire for them to experience the good things you enjoy and being forced to make people know your God. We naturally share things that excite us, and things that are important to us with our friends - sometimes even with strangers - of our own free will. There's no punishment associated with not sharing that cute kitten meme on Facebook, yet you and I repeatedly click that share button and even tag friends to let them know. Motives matter.
I want to address the issue of proselytizing for just another moment because it is so central to most religions. Most religions claim to be the true religion of God, to be the only way to get into heaven, or have a good relationship with God. Even if it were possible to have a true religion, the tenants would still be subject to interpretation by crazy people, I mean, by religious scholars.
I think we should look deeper. What are the common themes among every major religion? What do they share once we strip off the notion of exclusivity? If religion weren't a matter of heaven or hell, or eternal fate, how would we view each one? My best guess is that we would see hope for a future, caring for one another, and a God who loves people. We would find that each religion teaches that there is an eternal soul within each human, all humanity is connected and sacred, and that there is one supreme God. All of these common ideas are good. They all speak to what we know innately, though we may have forgotten while on this journey. We are far more alike than religion would lead us to believe.
I find it helpful to talk about why we tell people about our faith. Once heaven and hell is removed from the equation, then what? If you ask many Christians would they still go to church if they knew for sure they would make it into heaven, the answer would be "no." Though the catch phrase is "relationship, not religion," most Christians, most religious people do not have a relationship with the being they call God. He is out there somewhere far off, answering prayers when He's in a good mood. They don't know Him as the being that is always present, with a deep care for even the small details of our existence.
God doesn't need us to reach others. Right now, I believe, God is still trying to reach us. You may call Him Coke, while I may call Him Pepsi, but the fact is we are both calling Him. We all long to know this God that created us. I believe we knew God, and then were brainwashed out of this intimate relationship. We were given hoops and hurdles to overcome in order to know the God that knew us before we were formed in our mother's womb. God needs us to reach ourselves.
If heaven is the only reason you tell someone about Jesus, about whatever you call your God, then it is clear that you have forgotten who He really is. I've never needed an invitation to Neverland Ranch to tell anyone about Michael Jackson. I was just so impressed and even awestruck by his talent that I'd ask my friends, family, even strangers, "Have you heard the new Michael Jackson song? It's really good!" I'm not trying to keep them from something terrible, although life without Michael Jackson's music would suck. I'm trying to introduce them to a wonderful experience that they will enjoy and that will bring them happiness.
God isn't concerned with labels and avoidance. God is all about life and enjoying it to the full. Jesus never preached Christianity, and He never told His followers to go make Christians. Jesus' message was about a spiritual kingdom that is goodness, joy, and peace. We aren't soldiers in an army, fighting and destroying. At least we aren't supposed to be. We are brothers and sisters who should be bound together by love.
"We are God's sons, not His soldiers; we are designed for fellowship, not fighting."
God doesn't need us to go door-to-door and get people saved. He doesn't need us to take a missionary journey to test us to see if we will obey Him. He certainly doesn't desire that we kill the infidel if they don't convert. We don't exist to serve God or to stroke His ego. God isn't petty.
God does need us to reach one another with compassion and love. He needs us to be arms, hugging and helping humanity. God wants us to imitate Him. The best example we have of who He is can be found in the life of Jesus. Jesus met people where they were, even if they weren't like Him - especially if they weren't like Him. He hung out with the sinners and touched the lepers. He broke the religious rules and loved to the point of a self-sacrificial death. God may not need us to reach others to convert them, but I believe He certainly wants us to reach others to love them.
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