Monday, 26 May 2008

'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel...'

Some days I feel compelled to throw rocks at the Church of England. Today is such a day.

According to The Daily Telegraph's front page report a row has broken out within the Church regarding evangelism to Muslims. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has voiced concerns that not enough is being done to bring people of other faiths to Christianity. In response, other church leaders have criticised him for failing to show sensitivity to those following non-Christian religions.

This whole debacle has left me pretty gob-smacked. Follow my logic: Christians believe that the bible is God's true and complete word (don't get me started on 'Christians' who don't believe that!). Within that Word is what is known as The Great Commission, given by Jesus to his disciples following his death and resurrection and just before he ascended into heaven.

'Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."' Matthew 28: 16-20

'Go and make disciples of all nations'. Not 'go and make disciples of the nations that haven't got their own religion. Please don't step on any toes.' All nations. I think that's pretty clear!
And why are Christians supposed to do this? Because 'whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'. Mark 16: 16. Christians are called to spread the gospel out of love. Because of our longing for everyone to be saved from God's righteous judgement that is surely coming. I find it crazy that someone would be offended by my telling them about Jesus Christ because I am concerned for their eternal destiny. If someone of another faith evangelised to me in such a way - "I'm telling you this because I care about you and as such have a duty to tell you what I believe" - then I wouldn't be aghast at their arrogance. I would listen and thank them for their concern. I know that it wouldn't change my beliefs but neither would I have a paddy about their intolerance for my religion.

The largest misconception (clearly present in the Telegraph's report) appears to be that the idea that Christians want to evangelise to Musims because we see Islam as a threat to culture and religion. I can't speak for all Christians but I for one want to evangelise to all people (Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists, agnostics and everyone in between) in order that they might be saved by Jesus Christ and have assurance of a wonderful and eternal life with the Lord after our time on this earth is over.

There is no problem with debate over religion. It is natural and necessary. For some reason this country in particular has become afraid of such discussion. Why can't Christians be bold and tell the world of the amazing sacrifice made for us and of the limitless grace and mercy that God has for his children?


Giraffe-a-licious said...

N.B. I received a comment moderation request in reply to this post from someone with the username akhter. It was essentially an essay on the beliefs of Muslims with regard to Jesus. If anyone wants to know more then I'm sure it is easiy accessible on the internet somewhere.

Akhter - please don't think that I rejected your comment because I disagree with or do not respect your beliefs. The message was simply too long and in some instances unrelated to my initial post. Thanks for your feedback though.

I'd like to respond to a couple of the points made. Firstly, akhter stated "how could Jesus be a Christian when a Christian is someon who follows Christ?". I'm pretty sure that I've never referred to Jesus as a Christian. Jesus is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Those of us who follow him are Christians.

Secondly akhter also claimed that Jesus told of the coming of Muhammad, specifically in John 14:15-16 and 15:26-27. Christians believe that Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit in these passages. He is the Helper that came once Jesus had ascended into heaven. He is the Comforter that dwells in every Christian.

Anonymous said...

I read the headline and thought it meant other Christian denominations. I don't think if a Muslim talks to me attempting to have me revert to Islam he's showing me any disrespect. He's just following his faith. Once he respects my decision to maintain my own. This is just so syndromic it's crazy...

Anonymous said...

I think it all depends on how a person approaches this. If, like you8 describe, a person explained to me that he/she wanted to bring me into their faith out of love/concern and respected my beleifs and accepted if I decided to stick with them, that'd be fine. I have no problem with any faith.

However, there are people out there who go round saying that mozlims/pagans/whatever are all evil and shouold therefore all be converted because Christiantiy is the only 'right' faith. I think that that these people tend to spring to mind first when people talk about preeching their faith to others.
That kind of attitude is deeply offensive, not the first type.

Giraffe-a-licious said...

Hi Dark Angel. Thanks for your comment. As a Christian I do believe that there is only one, true faith and that I'm fortunate enough to have found it/had it revealed to me. However, I completely agree with you on the issue of labelling those who don't believe the same things as evil. Although I believe that there is only one way to God, it would do my cause no good to brand others in such a way. I'm no better a person than someone of any other faith. I'm just blessed and fortunate to know Jesus Christ. Whenever I speak to someone about my faith it is out of love. Militant evangelism such as you describe is wrong and one of the primary reasons for people rejecting religion in general.

Thanks for reading my blog :)

samedifference1 said...

I usually like your blog, as you know. I have to say, though, I was surprised to read this post.

Not because you have religious beliefs- I would never find that surprising. I certainly do have mine.

But I would never, ever, ever try to bring anyone into my faith for any reason, and what I find surprising is that you would use your blog to openly admit to the world wide web that you would.

The strength of your religious beliefs is a very good thing. But for me, religion is very personal, and should be kept to yourself and in your own home.

I find it very, very offensive when anyone, of any religion, including my own, talks about their religious beliefs to me for any reason to try to change mine.

I'll tell you my personal story of a reaction to something that I think may be similar to what you're trying to do.

I'm Muslim- not very religious. The other day, a member of my family purposely clicked reply all to a non-religious forward that I had sent out to all my friends, most of who are not Muslim. He told them all that Islam teaches what was in the e-mail, asked them 'what we know about our religion' and asked them to think about that.

He knew that he couldn't change their beliefs, but when I told him how embarrassed I was by this, he said that he was trying to make them think.

I think that's what you're trying to do here... but it makes you come across as extremely religious. Your view is your view, that's great, my view is my view and you won't change mine. But the truth is that, unfortunately, too many posts like this would have a good chance of turning people away from your blog. Whether you are trying to change our minds or not, if you talk about religion in this way, you will sound like you are. No offence. At all.

In fact, I'd like to write a post for a mainstream blog or two that I read, about this subject. I'd like to know if you would let me use my reactions to this post as a starting point. Like I said, no offence, at all. But like you said, debate about religion is a good thing. Pleaase let me know if you agree to my idea to write a separate post somewhere else on this topic. Thanks a lot!

Giraffe-a-licious said...

Hi there

I’m sorry to hear that you were offended by my post although I have to say I’m still a little bemused as to why you felt so strongly about it.

As a Christian, I believe that I am called to tell people the Gospel. That is part of my beliefs. I would never force anyone to listen to what I have to say – for example, there is nothing pressuring anyone to read this particular post out of all the others.

I like to think that my blog reflects who I am. I have M.E. – so I write about M.E. I love films – so I write about films. I’m a sports nut – hence the numerous sports related posts. I am a Christian – so I write about Christianity. If it turns people away from my blog then so be it. I don’t blog as a commercial enterprise. I do it simply because I like to write and share my opinions with people.

Ultimately I guess that I am trying to change people’s minds about Christianity. I believe it’s the one, true faith and that it’s important for people to hear about it. But as I said previously, I would never force anyone to listen to (or read) what I think on the subject.

I’m glad that you usually like my blog. It’s great to know that people read and enjoy it. However, from time to time I will continue to write about things from a Christian perspective. Hopefully the titles should let you know which posts you may wish to avoid.

I’m not quite sure what you mean about writing posts for mainstream blogs on the topic. Perhaps you could drop me an e-mail or comment back to give me a bit more information? Thanks.

Giraffe-a-licious :-)

samedifference1 said...

Hi again

As I said and showed in my last comment, I am always offended by anyone, of any religion, who talks or writes strongly about religion. That was not meant to be anything against you personally.

To me, religion is personal, and should be kept personal. But if you want to blog about religion once in a while, great.

I am hoping to write a post for a blog on politics about why I don't think (this is a very personal opinion) that blogs should be used to preach about any particular religion... unless, of course, that's why they're set up. I was hoping you might let me link this post as a part of it, if it happens, and use my comments to you in it. Of course, you would get credit.

Giraffe-a-licious said...

Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally :-)

Is this not a free speech issue? Providing that such thoughts on religion are not hateful, rude or unkind (I hope you agree that mine aren’t), surely anyone has a right to express them, in whatever format they choose?

If someone was offended by my talking about my disability, should I not write about M.E. and how it affects my life? Perhaps they don’t believe that M.E. is a real illness (sadly there are still people out there who think that). I know that M.E. is real, so I will write in a way that informs people. I know that Jesus Christ is real, so I will write in a way that informs people of that. But I hope that you can tell from my blog that I would never force it down anyone’s throat. This particular post is just my personal opinion on a front page news story.

If you do write a post for a blog on this subject then I have no problem with you linking to this discussion and using the comments. However, I do ask that you make sure that neither my faith nor my views are disrespected in any way. I’m sure I can trust you on that.

samedifference1 said...

Of course!

Matt said...

Couldn't help be interested in the discussion between samedifference1 and giraffe-a-licious.

sd1, can you not spot the irony in what you're saying here? You're scolding g-a-l for trying to 'bring people into her faith' but you have no problem with telling her that she should follow your beliefs about keeping religion personal and private.

By telling Christians not to tell others, you're basically saying 'Don't be a Christian, be like me'.

This demonstrates that EVERYONE has their own belief system and would perfer it if others conformed to their own opinion.

The issue therefore doesn't come to be about belief, it's about how we treat those who we disgaree with.

Christianity at it's heart is about a rescue. Probably the most well-known verse in the Bible (John 3:16) states 'God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life'.

Christians tell others about this rescue, in the same that someone who's found shelter in a storm would tell others. It's done out of concern for others. A Christian sharing their faith isn't an act of 'forcing someone into our beliefs' rather sharing good news.

If people don't want the rescue, or don't like the news then that's up to them, but for a Christian to be silent about the rescue would actually be calloused and unloving.

I heartily recommend the book 'The Reason for God' by Tim Kellar. His insight into the fact that everyone has their own fundamental beliefs is really helpful.