#3 - We have a difficult time making friends without an agenda to proselytize them
So far, I think this will be my most challenging rant because I want to be understanding of unbelievers' gripes about Christians, yet I want to be faithful to God's word and the Christian's commission. It is difficult because I know I am violating the #1 crime I think Christians commit -- judging. Also, I don't have the time to delve into the deep theology of the sovereignty of God in mans' salvation here. I'm just going to address the surface issues.
I have a co-worker who turns every -- I mean EVERY -- conversation into Jesus. While I admire his tenacity, the "Jesus talk" gets tiring. Quickly. When we're talking football or trucks, we're not talking about Jesus throwing a touchdown or torquing a wrench. While typing a report on a Sunday afternoon, a song played on the computer. He walked in and, without saying hello, said, "You're listening to that? And on the Lord's day?" (And no, it wasn't a bad song. Just a secular one.) The guy doesn't come across as sharing the good news of salvation. Instead, it's more as if he simply wants people to know how great a Christian he is by adding Christian-ese jargon to every possible conversation on the planet.
Oh, there's no doubt about knowing he's a believer. The result, however, is that people dread talking to him. And I don't blame them one bit; I feel the same way! What good is your witness if people don't care to talk to you? The same is true for all types of conversation. If all I talked day-in and day-out, from sun-up to sun-down, was police stuff, people -- including my wife and friends -- would puke with excitement whenever another opportunity at conversation with me arose.
The same goes for the Christian-ese conversation pieces. I love Jesus with all of my being, and I enjoy turning bane conversations into spiritual conversations. But sometimes I want to talk baseball, or books, or exercise. And that's what my friends want to talk about also -- WITHOUT DREADING BEING PROSELYTIZED. My co-worker has very good intentions, but it comes across the wrong way. It gives others the perception that he's not really as interested in them as he is in cramming the gospel in their faces.
This is where it is absolutely paramount for us Christians to trust the Holy Spirit for the power of convincing, convicting, and conversion. In explaining the Kingdom of God, Jesus told a parable of the soils, where seed (the message of Jesus) is scattered on various types of soil (people). Inherent in the parable is the understanding that the farmer has two basic jobs: First, to prepare the ground by weeding, tilling, etc. Second, to scatter the seed, but only after the ground was prepared. If he scattered before the ground was prepared, the soil wouldn't receive it and his efforts would be a wasted. The remainder -- ie, the watering and the growing -- were left up to God through nature.
The parable applies to our witness to the world. I find it careless to throw out the "seed" (the gospel) if/when people are not prepared to receive it. Build trust; build rapport. Trust the Holy Spirit for two things: to prepare people to receive and prompt us to speak when the time is right. We have to understand that the Holy Spirit is doing and will do His job. Remember, It is His job to water and grow the seed in a person. Not ours.
"We must go make disciples of all nations", someone will say.
"But Rome wasn't built in a day", I would reply.
Growth takes time. Coming to Jesus is sometimes -- often times -- a difficult decision for a person to make. No doubt, it is the most crucial decision anyone can make. But it takes time, like slow-cook simmering food in a pan.
When we grow close with people simply because they are our friends, we will know/sense proper timing of opportunities to share the gospel. I think we need to be cautious about making friends simply so we have more people to proselytize -- or cram. When the time is right, we must share; but when it's wrong, we must wait patiently. We need to accept the fact that maybe we are not the one to share to the person. But we also must be ready to share when we are called upon to do so.
As Mr. Miyagi once said, "Patience, Danyoson." Don't be afraid to be a friend. If you've tried to share the gospel and it is rejected, give it some time. But if you push it, you may push the person further away. In the meantime, just be a friend.