Is It My Christian Duty to Convert You?
Last night I stayed up way too late having an internet conversation with a woman. It got quite exasperating and I finally thought this is ridiculous and I need to just go to bed.
Right before bed I had jumped on the forum and scrolled past the usuals and I noticed this woman who I hadn't seen on there before. She had posted an article on King Herod and made a comment that generally historians regard the claims of the census and slaughter of the infant males in Bethlehem as untrue. That was a red flag for me. I read the article. The first nineteen paragraphs of the article were general facts about Herod the Great's life - how he rose to power and how he did a lot of building. Pretty much Encyclopedia Brittanica type stuff. Then it got to Jesus.
The article started talking about the date Herod the Great died which we now know was around 4 B.C. and then went on to say if he died before Jesus was born he couldn't have slaughtered the males under two. The author of the "science" article didn't do his research because that statement is not true. All of my Christian reference books say Jesus was born around 5 B.C. Our calendar did not come up with years A.D. (Anno Domini) and B.C. (Before Christ) until Dionysius Exiguus created it in A.D. 525. And it wasn't formally adopted by Charlemagne until A.D. 800. We now know Dionysius was off about 5 years in the year of Jesus' birth because he didn't have access to information on eclipses.
It is true there is no evidence that a census was taken or that Herod the Great slaughtered the infant males. But because we don't have the proof yet, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Atheists and people of other religions used to say King David didn't exist because we had no historical or archeological proof of his existence. It was not until 1993 they discovered proof of King David. I'm saying while we can't prove the census or death of the babies in Bethlehem at this time, it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
So I commented those things on this women's post to which she replied, "You are wasting your time trying to convert me." What? I said, "I'm not trying to convert you. I'm saying what you posted isn't news to Christians and doesn't contradict what we have been taught." I added, "Just curious. Why did you assume when I commented on your post that I was trying to convert you?"
To which she later in the conversation responded, ""It's your "Christian" duty is it not to convert the unbelievers?"" Near the end of the discussion I said, "No, it isn't my Christian duty to convert anyone." And she sarcastically replied, "Oh my bad, I thought you were a Christian. I do apologize."
I bet that shocks you I said that it wasn't my duty to convert anyone. It's kind of semantics and I'll explain.
I have for the past few years been thinking about my witness to others. All sorts of things have occurred in regards to this. My interaction with unbelievers on a forum, reading the book by Nabeel Quareshi called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (affiliate link), a recent study I did on the Promised Land and my women's group wearing love glasses to think about how we interact with others, etc.
Is it a Christian's duty to convert others? I say no. First of all, I don't have the power to do that. It is God's job to draw people to Him. Each person is the one who accepts the gift of God's grace and God is the one who saves.
God might use something I say to soften someone's heart - to get them pondering on something. I might be used to plant a seed or explain a concept to someone. But it isn't my duty to convert them.
What is my Christian duty? To be His witness. I know, I know; it seems to you that witnessing and trying to convert are the same thing. I don't think they are.
I have for awhile now been interacting with a lot of people who don't believe Jesus is their Savior. What I have found out is they know the gospel. They've heard it. They get the gist of it. They know what Christians believe, but they don't understand the why we believe it. I can be perfectly willing to explain it to them, but they already have their minds made up. Their heart is hard to any reasoning I put forth. And I can tell you my mind is made up and there is no changing me.
Atheists and other unbelievers in Christ aren't unintelligent. However, they appear to think we are deceived and ignorant. They know the arguments against Christianity. They've read; they've been trained. Hence the need for Apologetics which is the discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. They have their apologetics. But we do too!
[This is one of the things that surprised me when reading Nabeel's book - that as a devout Muslim he was trained in the arguments against Christianity. It wasn't until he made a friend in college who was trained in Christian apologetics that he began to look into Christianity. He and his friend discussed back and forth and after years he decided there was too much evidence for Christianity not to believe.]
What is the evidence Jesus was really resurrected? How do we know our biblical text is reliable? Etc.
I know enough about Christian apologetics to hold my own in a discussion. I'm willing to discuss it with an unbeliever, if they bring it up or ask. I know they will reason I was the one who posted something on the Bible topic and they feel it is their need to argue with me. But I'm not going on the Atheist or Muslim or other group topics (those exist) and posting my Christian thoughts. It is the opposite - they come on the Bible topic and post something against Christianity and I respond.
What you find when interacting with them is they have a pattern to their arguments. But so do Christians. One atheist I talk to seems to have rejected Christianity because of the concept of hell. He seems fixated on it. Almost anything I post he brings it up. I'm not going to give up my belief in a final judgment. He knows what I'm going to say. It is a waste of time to discuss it with him.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:15
[Notice the "who asks you" in the above verse.]
I am able to make a defense of my faith, to give an account for the hope in me. Where I fail sometimes is doing it with gentleness and reverence. Sometimes I get so frustrated with these people and yes, sometimes angry. Our discussions are circular. Same old, same old points are made. And it in those times I realize their hearts are too hard to listen and that the Lord has a lot of work to do on my heart also. I seem unable to be gentle.
Our Lord says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Let me give you what others say about Matthew 7:6.
It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don't want to listen and will only tear apart what we say. We should not stop giving God's Word to unbelievers, but we should be wise and discerning in what we teach to whom, so that we will not be wasting our time.
2011 NIV Life Application Study Bible text note for Matthew 7:6
Believers are to be merciful, forgiving, and slow to judge (7:1-5), yet they should wisely discern the true character of people and not indefinitely continue proclaiming the gospel to those who adamantly reject it, so that they can move on and proclaim the gospel to others (cf. 10:14; also Acts 13:46; 18:6; Titus 3:10-11).
ESV Study Bible text note for Matthew 7:6
When we meet vicious people who treat divine truths with utter contempt and respond to our preaching of the claims of Christ with abuse and violence, we are not obligated to continue to share the gospel with them. To press the matter only brings increased condemnation to the offenders.
Needless to say, it requires spiritual perception to discern these people. Perhaps that is why the next verses take up the subject of prayer, by which we can ask for wisdom.
Believer's Bible Commentary by William MacDonald, commentary for Matthew 7:6 (affiliate link)
[I'm contemplating on the "To press the matter only brings increased condemnation to the offenders." Yikes!]
Yes, the Great Commission tells us to spread Jesus' teaching to all the nations. We are to tell people the good news. But what if they know the gospel and just plain reject it? When this woman last night was unwilling to even discuss the information I was putting forth, but digressed to swearing at me and unreasonable comments, I knew it was time to give it up. I was at no time trying to convert her. I was trying to explain something to her that she brought up, to defend my faith.
No, I don't see my Christian duty as converting others. My Christian duty is to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; to be a living stone; making the most of every opportunity; to be His witness. (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:5; Colossians 4:5; Acts 1:8) I am to love God with my entire being and to love others as myself. I am to live my faith out loud.
Convert someone? No.
But share my faith. Yes.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”