Proselytize Part One
Not sure what makes Bible information different from any other information online. Mexican food is healthier than Chinese, vegan is more ethical than barbecued, Buffalo pizza is better than Chicago’s. There is more serious info of course, like weather and climate, political facts and legislation. So on and so forth.
Everybody on social media is trying to “sell” something to someone, to persuade people from one position or conviction to another. Little stuff and big stuff. Why the Bible’s information is put into a different category and treated differently, I both do understand and don’t understand. (That’s a pretty noncommittal statement, wouldn’t you say?) What I mean is that maybe some things are too personal, or maybe the Bible is just naturally offensive to our sensitivities and conjures up all kinds of imaginary offenses created by wrong teaching and wrong behaviors from the past or nonspecific feelings of guilt having no specific reality in one’s life. I don’t really know. Nevertheless, it seems such a waste of time, because it really doesn’t matter… (“…we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” see 1 Corinthians 1:18–25, NIV)
People may think that someone like myself is trying to “bring people into the fold,” to “score” religious converts, to “proselytize.” I know for many that that word, proselytize, has some very negative connotations, real or imagined. However, in general terms, I for one am simply attempting to give people enough accurate information so they can make their own decisions and commitments. And that is no different than anyone else posting whatever they post on social media. Every topic. No difference. Zero. Everyone is trying to “sell” something, and selling what the Bible has to offer is no different than attesting what car is the best and giving personal testimonies to its performance.
Personally I find the Bible has infinitely more significance than any other topic, and that is to say, although I do get enjoyment and even education from most every other kind of post on the internet, I believe eternal life has, at the very least, some importance. People can regard my posts as just my opinion, but it is, after all, an experienced opinion — certainly not coming from a paid professional spokesperson. Here’s the broader Google definition of proselytize — “convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.” Please note “belief” and “opinion” are also there, and they illustrate my use of the word, to use facts to change people’s opinions.
Finally, I have no power to convert anyone. That is the work of God, the Holy Spirit. I have no mystical power to force you to change your religion. I don’t get “goody-goody” points with God. Beyond that, God doesn’t force anyone to choose His ways over any other way. Here it is: take it or leave it. Here are the facts.
Here is my testimony: the stories of my existence and experiences with Jesus. (People said Jesus was “out of his mind” and you may think that of me. Again, “me” doesn’t matter.) What I have found from my relationship with Jesus is not some cardboard cutout, a hallucination or whatever. I offer you a peek into what I am learning. You have to react to Jesus with your own thoughts and make your own decisions. You have the God-given freedom to choose. All I am trying to do is to give folks enough information so they can choose wisely. So, what you do with what I write is your business.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (1 John:1–4. NIV)
The first disciples walked and talked with Jesus, ate with Him, slept in the same room or on the same hillside or lakeshore. Today, we need to hear, even if we cannot see or touch Jesus, and Patty and I still need to proclaim. They chose to follow and to write down their experiences with Jesus, and thanks be to God, today we can read about Him, and we can choose to follow Him, too. “…Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Freedom to choose is not only a modern phenomenon. It is as ancient as the hills.
Proselytize Part Two
This morning, while Patty and I were sharing our thoughts after our morning Bible studies, and after editing my latest midnight ramble, we had similar thoughts on our early church life, how we were brought up and what we were taught. Turns out we weren’t taught very much, For example, pertaining to the Gospel, my Presbyterian Church never said anything about being born again, even though Jesus said it was essential to be both naturally born and supernaturally born, born into the world by our Mothers and also be born a second time supernaturally into the universe of heaven by through Jesus. Join the University Presbyterian Church and you’re on your way. My experience was that in that established doctrine, there was no Way at all. Yet, unlike Patty’s Roman Catholic upbringing, I was taught all the basic Bible stories — although in a very elementary way. Patty remembers on Mondays she got to leave school early. That was the highlight — leaving school early. They got to walk over to Blessed Sacrament for Religious Education. She doesn’t remember any Bible stories being taught. Very much like my experience, follow the correct procedures: Infant Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation is where she became a member of the Church, and like me, she was on her way, too.
As in all religions, it turns out there is no Way at all. Just gotta believe without proof. Hope without hope. It seems Christian denominations each have their own Hoping Heaven, and a person’s membership is the written guarantee of entering those “Pearly Gates.” Just become a member, and follow the specified liturgy. It’s your stairway to heaven. All religions promise that glorious eternity of bliss. Just join. Climb the invisible stairs.
None offer any written guarantee, no money back warranty. What you see is what you get. Patty and I never saw anything. Did you? (I remember the guys taking a road trip to Toronto for a rock concert: stoned, seriously needing a place to crash, finding an underground parking, climbing the stairs, finding doors locked on every landing, and at the very last landing, no door! Aaugh!)
When Patty’s friend introduced her to an assembly of born again Spirit filled Christians, she recalls that unlike church membership, they apparently knew who they were worshiping, and they were living in a new reality as well as living in the world everybody already lives in. It was basically the same for me, and it wasn’t at all like getting a membership card. It was experiencing a new reality above and beyond my life up to that point. “In the world, but not of the world,” someone phrased it. Still we had to deal with stuff within and without. Someone said, “Don’t be so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good.”
Patty and I have ups and downs in the world just like everyone else. We do not escape from the world. We live in this reality. We have something more, though. We have a new advantage, a new perspective, an enhanced life, a fortified life and an upcoming new reality. (Not riding on some comet, either. I mean, please…)
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin [fall short]. But if anybody does sin [make wrong choices, miss the mark], we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (my edit, 1 John 2:1, NIV)
Note: see a definition of advocate at https://biblehub.com/greek/3875.htm .