I came away from the holidays very uncomfortable this year.
They were normal, full of traditions, family, decorations and food. But, one thing was different.
I would now be spending eternity apart from God.
Well, not immediately. But, I was given this as my eternal destination, if my faith did not make a serious detour. You see, I hold to a different interpretation of the Bible than the folks who expressed their concern for my faith practice. The details of the disagreement don’t matter here, but the conclusion that I would fail to enter the presence of God upon my death left me speechless.
I was where I had never been before---on the other end of the evangelistic spectrum. I was the one who didn’t believe correctly. And it was awful. I felt belittled. I felt caught off guard. I felt anger. I felt a lot of things nasty enough not to write here. But, then I felt sad.
But my sadness and evolving anger weren’t because my faith practice was in question. Those emotions were because I was sure I had caused these same terrible feelings in people who don’t share my faith in Jesus Christ.
In fact, as I reflect on my holiday experience, I feel more of a sense of respect and love for those willing to put their faith at the mercy of my judgment. I can only pray that others would have the same reaction to my own faith sharing. But, I think that most people would stop, as I did at first, at the feelings of belittlement and anger, and dismiss me as a bigot, as pompous, as so many things that faithful believers have been called for so long.
Truly, my belief system didn’t change with the new twist on faith I was hearing. It didn’t change with preaching, warning, and even a logical explanation laid before me. But, one big thing did change. My heart.
I write this blog today, not to condemn anyone for sharing their faith. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I write today to encourage. Be strong. Continue to share your faith in humbleness, and be confident in your evangelistic efforts.
I had forgotten, until now, the real consequences of true evangelism. Isolation. Persecution. Misunderstanding. Conflict. And I had forgotten the true motivation behind evangelism. Love. Those who share their faith do it because they love their neighbor and want to share the gift of the joy they have. Those who evangelize have a strength that the world tries to put down day in and day out.
This holiday season, I was the world.
Though my faith is different than those who shared with me, I respect it. I confess my pride in not being attentive. And I acknowledge that God has used their evangelism to change me. They did not fail. God worked.
And today, I will repurpose to have the strength to share my own faith to a world that will surely feel uncomfortable.