I grew up feeling guilty because I wasn’t discussing God with more people. It didn’t matter that people didn’t really want to talk about God. It was my job to make them want to talk! That attitude was relationally irrational if I wanted others to consider whether living with God is better than living without God. I don’t have enough faith to believe I evolved by change. Now, I don’t make judgments about why people don’t want to talk about spiritual issues. I am free to simple love people as I wish to be loved without a hidden agenda. We will know when one wishes or needs to discuss God, just as we know when they wish to discuss other subjects.
The idea that we must get people to talk about something they don’t wish suggests true love is controlling. If God was controlling He wouldn’t respect freedom. We know what it feels like for friends to push their agenda and passions on us, supposedly for our own good, when we didn’t invite such discussions. Spirituality can be a touchy subject for many. God can work in one’s life without our pushiness. Do we really think God is not going to welcome those eventually who had never heard of God or had experiences that have driven them away from God?
“Mike, if you don’t talk to someone now they may go to Hell!” It is important to know such a place does not exist, so you don’t approach relationships as if you need to sell fire insurance. It turns out Hell is not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Hell was an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. When Jesus supposedly spoke on Hell, He used the Greek word Gehenna. Gehenna is a proper noun and was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem that had a history Jesus’ audience understood. Hell is no more a translation of Gehenna than Atlanta is for Chicago. The Bible never speaks of God being a hellish, sadistic torturer. Are we concerned that intimacy with our Creator is not attractive enough and people must be scared into a relationship?
Jesus didn’t use Hell to threaten others into heaven because no such place existed. Jesus never had people bow their head and pray a certain prayer to get in heaven. The thief on the cross just asked to be remembered. Jesus said “you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23). When the Pharisees wanted to stone a woman for adultery, Jesus got the crowd to look in the mirror and told the woman “go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8). C’mon! Didn’t Jesus have a better evangelical spiel in case He never saw the woman again? Jesus wasn’t saying if you sin again, “you are out.” Jesus seemed to think Heaven begin now if you want to have a relationship with God and follow His wisdom. It is a slap in God’s “unconditional love” face to suggest Jesus’ agenda with people was anything other than loving people as they deep down desire to be loved.
How do we tell others about God if we are full of passion to do so? It is obvious when people want to talk about God. Live a life where they understand you are capable of such discussions. Love others because it is the right thing to do and how Jesus did things. Of course Jesus wanted others to consider how life can go so much better with God. Most people know this intuitively, but they still have a right to be open when they are ready. Jesus wasn’t pushy. Jesus only got pissed at those who acted religious and weren’t. We have a right to act judgmental when peoples’ immorality is hurting others.
I don’t carry around a weight of guilt. I love to talk to others about and admit that I try to interject God into conversations subtle. Honestly, few take my bait but God doesn’t force Himself on others so why should I. I suspect people kind of know I am a Jesus freak. It isn’t because I am such a great lover of people always. I know how to sin with the best of them, but I think I know how to repent well thanks to God’s unconditionally love. I think people know I try harder than most to speak the truth in love and try to not talk behind their back.
Years ago no one was asking me to say prayers in non-religious group settings. Now, people look to me as if I am expected to pray. Maybe they sense God and I hang together. Maybe they know I went to seminary a year and mistakenly think that qualifies me. But, my prayers are fun and open because God in my life is fun and open. I am not praying with an agenda: you better believe or else. I just love talking about God anyway I can because He is worth consideration. It is like asking me to play tennis. Anytime, anywhere! I don’t have to get them to believe.
The good news is that we do not have to try to force God on others. We can stop feeling guilty. The truth is God is patient and waits for an invitation. Jesus at the well didn’t give the woman a canned evangelistic speech and berate her about her sin. He simply said “Then, neither do I condemn you….Go now and leave your life of sin” (Jn 8:11). God only pulled out the whooping stick with religious people pushing their brand of God on others. God is ready to talk when we are ready. Sometimes, I will interject God’s name briefly in a conversation because I think about God all the time, but I don’t go any further than one wants. The only pressure I feel is to love people as I wish to be loved. If they leads to conversations about God, so be it.