I sometimes get the question, “Shouldn’t we just let people believe what they want to believe?” Or, put another way, “Isn’t evangelism unloving because you are trying to force people to leave their beliefs behind and accept yours?” In this age of “tolerance,” as it is called, there is a growing notion that people ought to be able to believe whatever they want and that all beliefs are created equal. To tell someone what he believes is wrong is unloving and, well, wrong!
Of course the contradiction here is obvious.
If it is wrong to tell other people that their beliefs are wrong and I believe that others need to believe in Jesus as I do, why are you telling me I’m wrong to believe what I do? After all, tolerance is not the idea that everyone’s beliefs and ideas are equally true. We show tolerance when we disagree but allow people to continue in their beliefs without using pressure tactics or threats of harm to coerce them to change their stated view.
For someone to insist that you should die or at least experience some sort of retaliation if you don’t change your view, would indeed be unloving and intolerant. The question is then, "Is that what Christians do in evangelism?" Absolutely not. Put all thoughts out of your mind about the Spanish inquisition and other such atrocities that have been done “in Jesus' name” because they are in complete rejection of His own teaching. Such heinous acts are not Biblical evangelism.
Christian evangelism is a loving act.
Christian evangelism, done by Biblical methods, is a loving act of seeking to persuade through reason, evidence, Scripture, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit to show a non-believer the truth of the Gospel (good news about Jesus). As Christians, we practice tolerance in the classical sense of the word and allow others to hold to their beliefs with which we disagree. We do not threaten or harm them in any way, but all the while we seek to show them that Christianity is true and people everywhere need Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. No one is born a Christian, and we are all sinners who need Jesus. I became convinced of the Gospel as truth at a point in my life, and I believe that everyone needs to know Jesus just as I have come to know Him.
Sometimes our efforts to persuade people towards Christ are seen as pushy or unloving, but the heart of our intentions are for the good of those with whom we are sharing our faith. Imagine for a moment that you saw a person who was both blind and deaf standing on a railroad track, unaware that a train was speeding his way, and clearly under the impression that he was in no danger whatsoever. What would be the loving response on your part--let him meet his fate with the train or try to move him out of harm's way? Obviously the answer is to try to move him out of harm's way. In fact, I would argue that you have a moral obligation to attempt to save this man’s life.
An individual may resist you.
Now it may be the case that when you come alongside an individual, he will resist you because, after all, he doesn’t know who you are or why you are urging him to move from his belief. You seem like an inconvenience at the least and maybe even a threat to his well-being, but in reality you are performing an act of love with his best interests in mind.
This is a great example of Christian evangelism.
We as Christians believe that all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and are guilty of breaking His commands. If you are unsure, I urge you to read the 10 commandments in Exodus 20 and ask yourself if you have loved God at all times more than other things or if you have always honored your parents, ever lied, stolen, etc. We all have broken God’s law and are accountable to Him for what we have done. God is a good judge, and, therefore, He cannot and will not let us get away with lawlessness. Just as a judge cannot simply forgive a criminal for stealing because he said that he was sorry or because he’s done more good than bad in his lifetime, God must judge us for breaking His law and hold us accountable for what we’ve done.
But God did not leave us alone in our situation. He sent His Son Jesus (John 3:16) who lived a sinless life, fulfilled the law of God on our behalf, and died on the cross to pay for our sins so that God could justly forgive us of our wrong doing (Romans 3:23-26) on the basis of Jesus being an acceptable substitute for all who place their faith/trust in Him. Since Jesus is the one and only way God has provided to make us right with Him, it is essential that we spread the message of what Jesus has done to pay for our sin so that people may hear the message, believe, and be saved (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). As Christians, we want people to be able to come into a right relationship with God and know peace with Him.
Our motivation is love.
People often take offense to Christians sharing our faith and trying to persuade others to leave their belief system behind and trust in Jesus even though our motivation is love. If we really believe that Hell is real and all people deserve to go there (us included) and there is only one way provided by God to have our guilt and sin taken away, then it is UN-loving to not share the Gospel and not to evangelize. We would be morally reprehensible people to believe in Hell and God’s just wrath against sin and not share the hope of forgiveness found in Jesus alone. Evangelism is an act of love from your Christian friends and family. Regardless of whether you accept the message of Jesus (and I hope you will), know that Christians are loving you when they share the Biblical message of Jesus.