Finding Faith: It's not the job of Christians to 'convert' others
"Our mother used to preach to us that we had best get our own houses in order before we ever begin to judge someone else," Devlyn Brooks writes.
I think our efforts as faithful people would ring a whole lot more genuine with those who are skeptical of religion if we spent more time trying to “convert” ourselves versus others.
Yes, our scriptures do preach to us that we are to bring the “good news” to all nations. But I also think we forget that before God ever tried to “fix” humankind, God first came to live among us in flesh and blood, intending to show us the way to real belief.
At the point that Constantine converted to Christianity and granted important concessions to Christians to live without persecution, many faithful began the long descent toward a conquering religion that we’ve inherited down to this day. This has left us worried more about the conversion of others than their salvation, which rings hollow with many.
Jesus, on the other hand, showed us a different way. In his Sermon on the Mount, he preached that “blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), and gave us the recipe for being faithful: meekness, a hunger for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart … peacemakers. Each and every one of his instructions was to the individual, and not one of them was about “converting” others.
Jesus’ ministry wasn’t a full-on military campaign to conquer the gentiles of the first century, nor was it to acquire health, wealth and success in this earthly world. Being divine, the son of God, one would think he could have made pretty quick work of those goals if he had wanted.
But, rather, Jesus lived a life of compassion, empathy, selflessness and love, inviting others into his discipleship, not coercing them.
When we make faith about conversion, it’s too easy to align ourselves with the imperial nature of this world. Far too easy to force our religious traditions on those who may be living fine without them.
However, if we take a step back, and consider converting ourselves to a life such as the one Jesus lived, we present an entirely more inviting picture of what being a disciple of Jesus really is like.
Our mother used to preach to us that we had best get our own houses in order before we ever begin to judge someone else. She knew that being faithful is more about figuring out how to live in Jesus’ footsteps than it is imposing religion on someone else. Faith is about our human journey, just as it was about Jesus’ human journey. Faith is about love and living through the wonderment and the tragedies, about joy and suffering, about relationship and compassion.
Authentic faith isn’t a belief system to be instilled in others; it’s a way of life that lovingly invites others into the living light that is God. When we embody this, we don’t have to worry about converting others to our faith … because they’ll see they’re already included. Amen.