Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
It’s been a rough few weeks for public Christianity. Too many videos have surfaced showing pastors and other people of faith spewing their hateful words. It saddens me that there are many churches that believe essentially the same things, but think that they are better because they say it more gently. Even more disturbing is that this is frequently a platform for an equally faulty position: being a friend with an agenda.
I made the mistake recently of asking, “Why aren’t we more proactive about offering the Gospel message?” I was told that one needs to “earn” the right to share Jesus with people. I found that statement confusing. If Jesus is such an important part of my life, and if we’re supposed to “make disciples of all nations,” then why must I wait for the right moment to clue someone in about my faith? I also felt an underlying discomfort that I couldn’t name or describe. I shrugged it off, figuring I was just feeling defensive in the moment.
After some thought, though, I began to understand what made me feel awkward. There were two things, both of which are based on the concept of “friendship with an agenda.”
First, why can pastors shout hateful or untrue things about LGBT people from the pulpit, but I have to “earn” the right to share Jesus with people? I would think that “Jesus loves you” would go over somewhat easier than “You’re going to hell because you’re gay”! I get tired of people thinking that the problem with church is that we don’t have the right programming or the right kind of building or the right music. I am weary of the idea that we need to couch the Gospel in “appealing” terms so that people will want to hear it. That mentality ignores what’s really going on. No one wants to hear about God’s love while simultaneously not being shown love. This is love with an agenda—come on in, so I can “earn” the right to share the Gospel with you by pointing out all the ways in which you are sinful.
Second, I don’t care for the concept of friends with ulterior motives. I don’t have gay friends and Jewish friends and atheist friends for the purpose of telling them about Jesus. I’m certainly not tight-lipped about my faith. But I don’t have ulterior motives. I’m not sticking with my friends on the off chance that they might change their minds and want me to tell them how to be saved. I have no expectations in that way. Here’s my message to my non-Christian friends:
I chose you because I like you. We have things in common, we have kids the same age, I find you interesting and fun, and I like being with you. This is the same way I pick all my friends, regardless of religion. I didn’t choose you because I’m using you as my personal mission field. Should you have an interest in talking about spiritual things, I’m here. But I enjoy your company and I’m glad to hang with you no matter what we talk about.
Back in high school, we were warned away from “missionary dating”—going out with someone in order to bring them to faith in Jesus. In the same way, I recall one of my youth leaders telling me that I shouldn’t base my non-dating relationships on whether or not I could convince my friends to come to church. Those were wise words, and I’ve tried to live by them. Loving others should never have a hidden purpose. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t share our faith with those who are not Christians. But we should never base friendship on the idea that we have a personal mission to make sure they don’t end up in Hell.