I love my best friend immensely. We’ve been the closest of friends for 24 years now and I pray we will remain the closest of friends for another 24 and then some. But, I often struggle with his approach to Christianity, as I have with many others as well who tend to proselytize their love for Christ in many of their conversations with me.
Look, I love Christ and personally declare Christ as my own teacher and savior and I seek to love as Christ did, but I don’t shout it from the rooftops or talk about it in the majority of my sentences. I do my best instead to show the love of Christ through my actions. Actions like hugging someone, listening to them without giving advice, crying with them, holding their hand, praying for strength, love, and support for them, etc.
Having felt so broken over the past few years from all my pains and anguish, I’ve really felt like I’ve been in hell, but suggesting that I need to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ and quoting me Biblical passages doesn’t help, it only overwhelms me, as it tends to feel quite judgmental, appearing as if I haven’t done enough spiritually or dedicated myself enough to Christ/God to be free of what I’ve been going through.
It’s why I love the story of Job so much. His three closest friends’ behavior drastically change from unconditional love to conditional love as Job’s pain and suffering carries on long past seven days. As Job anguishes and just wants to know why God allows him to keep hurting so bad, his friends start claiming he must have done something wrong with God. They suggest he’s crossed God somehow and insinuate it’s either some level of sin he’s doing or some level of dedication he needs to have with God that he hasn’t reached yet. Essentially, they all judge Job’s suffering must be Job’s fault somehow, that he’s either not doing enough or not doing it right. They’re all grossly wrong, which God makes sure to let them know in the end by stating that Job had done the best he could and then fully restoring Job’s life.
Whether the story of Job is true or not doesn’t matter, as it simply inspires me because I see much of my own long-lasting pain and suffering in Job’s and have been on the receiving end of people acting just like Job’s friends did. The fact is, I am and have been doing the absolute best I can to seek God in all my circumstances. And I do not believe I am in pain and suffering for as long as I have been because I have wronged God somehow, or because I haven’t sought a deeper relationship with Jesus, or because I haven’t studied enough Biblical passages, or because of some sin I’m still doing, or because of anything on my part really. I learned long ago that God’s grace and love is FREELY given to all of us, which is why I stand firm in my belief that I will heal independent of any works or actions on my part. But, when people proselytize to me, it makes me feel exactly the opposite, like I’m inadequate in the eyes of God, that I haven’t done enough to deserve God’s love, that I’m less than in some way, or that some sin of mine is somehow the cause of my long suffering. When in reality, as Job’s story showed, I don’t think it’s because of any of that.
Nevertheless, people didn’t come to Christ back in his time because of proselytizing. They came to him because of his unconditional acts of love and kindness. That’s why proselytizing tends to remind me today of the Pharisees in Jesus’s time who preached more than live out the scripture and talked more about the laws than in demonstrating the unconditional love and kindness of Jesus.
When my close friend Scott’s brother regularly proselytized him, it eventually caused them to have a major division leading Scott to resent both his brother and Christianity. When my sponsee Jeremiah had a best friend once proselytize heavily to him, it eventually ended their close friendship. And after a recovery friend of mine, Brian, spent the majority of our conversations hammering Jesus Christ and the Bible down my throat, it became so uncomfortable I had to completely pull away from him. Constantly preaching about Jesus and quoting Biblical scriptures, intimidates the non-religious and the non-church attender, often feeling judgmental to them who simply just want the unconditionally loving hand of Christ.
While I know my best friend means well and truly cares about me, as have all the others who have tried the proselytizing approach with me, what none of them seem to understand is that the fastest way for me and many others to run from a Christian is to have them constantly proselytizing their love of Christ, using one Biblical reference after another. Ironically, the fastest way for us to connect with them though is to simply love us unconditionally, arms outstretched, no words needed, letting us know like Christ would, that we are loved no matter what. I just pray one day all the evangelicals will come to understand this…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson