Christianity is one of the world religions that has sent missionaries to different parts of the world.
These missionaries have a specific calling of going to places where the Gospel has been preached.
The ultimate example of a missionary who embodied the biblical principles of missionary work is none other than Jesus Christ but next to Him, it was the Apostle Paul who devised means and different strategies in order to bring the Gospel where Jesus is not yet known.
It can be said that the first Christian missionary efforts were pioneered and modeled by the Apostle Paul.
Armed with the Gospel message and imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul showed what evangelism looks like after the ascension of Jesus.
The idea of preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations is not invented by man. It has always been part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Does the Bible Have Anything to Say About Force Religion?
A closer look at the Old Testament would make you see the hints of this message as it foreshadows the coming of Jesus in the New Testament.
As the Gospel message became more evident and clear for the people of God after the ascension, so does the mission to share it with the rest of the world. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This means that evangelism or preaching the Gospel is one of the core beliefs of Christianity.
Since the Gospel message is the only message that can alter the eternal destination of a person, it deserves the attention of the world and every person must at least get one chance of hearing it and being invited to believe in it.
While evangelism or witnessing is expected of every Christian, most believers do not know how to do it or even, they do it in the wrong way.
Missionaries have embraced a sure and clear calling from God but sometimes even they would overemphasize some truths of the Gospel over others.
There are Christians and even missionaries who water down the Gospel which leads to easy believing or the idea that one can be saved from the wrath of God just by flippantly praying a prayer or just saying “I believe in Jesus” without any form of repentance.
The other extreme would be highlighting the idea of hell and eternal punishment just to get people saved by fear and not by faith which then results in legalism.
These imbalances or excesses, and even sometimes unbiblical practices, are what give the impression that the Christian Gospel must be forced into the hearts of people.
What is worse is that people feel coerced into believing the Gospel.
The Reality of Force Religion
This ministry malpractice makes both believers and unbelievers ask the question: Does God want us to force religion on others?
In order to answer this question, we must remember that Jesus came to seek and save the lost and to preach the Gospel and the coming of the Kingdom.
Jesus was always compassionate and understanding.
He was firm and unyielding when He needed to be.
But one thing is very clear with Jesus Christ’s mission: He did not come to the world to promote religion but to offer a relationship.
So if Jesus did not force religion on others, so should His followers.
Instead, like Jesus, His followers must offer a relationship with them. Jesus had a clear pattern of evangelizing the people.
He ministered to their felt needs and revealed to them their hearts’ greatest need which is having Him as Lord and Savior.
In Matthew 10:7-13, Jesus gave simple and clear instructions on how to share the Gospel, he said:
7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
This set of verses will help Christians better understand the perimeters of the responsibilities of believers when it comes to preaching the Gospel.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand …”
Jesus told them the specific words to say when they go and proclaim the Gospel. They were not to invent or reinvent the Gospel message.
Rather they are to be clear with the message of the Kingdom because they are representing Jesus and any vagueness could potentially lead to confusion or a distortion of the Gospel.
This is a reminder for every believer who is into preaching the Gospel to many.
Sometimes when Christians are overly passionate about the mission, they distort or dumb down the message of the Gospel.
One way to ensure that this will not happen is to always go back to what Jesus said about the Gospel.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
As the first disciples of Jesus go out, they are empowered and commissioned to minister and even believe God for miraculous works to manifest as they preach the Gospel.
This is another reason why God does not force religion on people but He does give compelling reasons and situations why a person must believe in Jesus.
“And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”
In this verse, Jesus instructs his disciples about what will happen as they approach and engage the people with the Gospel and it is framed in a conditional statement.
Through His instructions, believers can learn that preaching the Gospel, witnessing for Jesus, and offering a Gospel-centered relationship with them does not give an assurance that everyone will say “yes” or even agree.
There will be people who cause “your peace to return to you” which is totally fine because ultimately, while the power to change the heart lies in the message of the Gospel, whether or not the heart will receive it depends on God.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
In Revelation 3, John saw a vision where Jesus was knocking at the door.
What is worth noting from this passage is that despite the matchless power of Jesus, He does not knock down the door and force His way in.
Instead, he said: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
There are many mysteries and intricacies when it comes to how a person places his faith in Jesus, but one thing is clear, He does not possess people like demons. Instead, with a gentle spirit, He relentlessly invites people to live for Him.
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