”Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
— G.K. Chesterton
Honestly, there are times I feel like I’m fooling people into Jesus.
I ask them, “Isn’t there something missing in your life?” Something is always missing.
I ask some more: “Do you know what you’re living for? Do you know what you’re dying for? Do you know where you’re going? Do you have purpose, direction, a story?”
Then I make a Very Convincing Case about Jesus. “He’ll give you all the acceptance, validation, and approval you need. You can quit performing; he did it already. He has your True Purpose.” Those are all true things.
Yet — I still have this strange guilt, like I’m selling snake oil. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m merchandising marketable goods, putting Jesus in a display window and dangling him with a false psychological allurement.
I know I love Jesus — so why the guilt?
If I keep “pushing Jesus” on someone without teaching them to think through it carefully — with much honest deliberation, with their own research and reflection, with analyzing their doubts and objections — then any sort of faith that arises will have been no faith at all, but only giving in to a sale.
If we were all to think critically and ask the hard questions of ourselves, we would be more likely to arrive at a place of confidence on our own.
My main role as a pastor and teacher of God’s Word is not to insert biblical facts into peoples’ heads like an Inception, but allow them room to learn about it for themselves. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do His saving work.
In a sense, I want to teach them how to think, not what to think. Because I don’t want to “trick” anyone into Jesus, not even by accident. I would much rather you conclude the matter for yourself, to think for yourself, to really own the truth, than for me to somehow win you over.
I clearly remember the naive words of a young innocent man who told me, “I was so scared; I didn’t know I needed Jesus to avoid Hell. I just didn’t know, so I got me saved.” The guilt stabbed me. It’s not that I wanted to talk him out of it, but to talk him through it. To have a real back-and-forth dialogue about what he believes. That’s more sustainable than later he feel bamboozled, disillusioned, and betrayed.
But most of all, when I talk about Jesus these days, I try to be sincere about the passion: that he is the Greatest Love, a Brother, Savior, Lord, and Friend, and it’s really a relationship. It’s obvious from my pores: I’m in love. You can’t really package that and sell it to someone.
Apologetics, doctrine, systematic theology: those are all important things that will teach us how to think, which is an absolute must. We need to think from top to bottom and wrestle with our doubts. But this is not sufficient in itself. We must also be undignified about his goodness, his grace, his mercy.
If we’re going to be fools in any area, let’s not be fools in our thinking.
Let’s be fools in our love.