“Stop forcing your beliefs on me!”
“You heard! Stop trying to force your Christianity on me. I don’t want to hear it!”
Have you heard a conversation snippet like the one above? I have. And all too often. Maybe you were the giver or the receiver, or maybe just a curious observer. I can tell you from experience the awkwardness surrounding such a dismissal is quite palpable.
My standard reaction when sharing my Christian faith with people who respond like that is to take the punch and move on. This has been a huge mistake, and my response going forward will be much different. One of the main reasons that I blog is to share the gospel of Christ. The internet is a great platform and I want to use it well.
Is it forcing or sharing?
First, I need to ask a question. Does sharing equal forcing? I don’t see it. The word “sharing” implies I have something good that I want to give to you. The word “forcing” implies I’m threatening you because I have something I want to take from you. The gospel of Christ is a free gift. I can’t take anything from you by sharing the gospel.
Second, it’s actually logically impossible to force somebody to believe something. At most, a person could force another person to confess a belief by threatening harm or some kind of penalty. In that situation, the person being forced might agree to the belief either to shut the person up or to avoid being harmed or penalized. That’s not real belief.
It seems then there is some kind of misunderstanding happening. I do not threaten people when I try to share the gospel with them. Forgive my outburst of alliteration, but my goal is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and creatively with courage and compassion without compromising my convictions. I’ll try an analogy.
This is a real puzzler
Think about two people working a jigsaw puzzle together. They are trying to solve the puzzle by putting all the pieces in the right spot. Do you think either person would be happy with the result if one person forced a puzzle piece into a place where it obviously doesn’t go?
When I share the truth of Christ with people, I try to show them that the Christian worldview makes the best sense out of the puzzle that is life. It would be counterproductive for me to try and force an idea into the conversation that doesn’t fit with reality.
I can no more force you to believe that Jesus is the only way to God—or any other belief—than I could force you to take my hand to lead you out of a burning building because I know the way out. It’s a cop-out. Everyone knows the difference between forcing and sharing.
There is a saying that goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I use this saying for two reasons. First, I think it supports the idea very well that sharing is not the same as forcing. Second, the Bible describes Jesus as the “living water” in John 4:13-14.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (English Standard Version)
What do you mean by “forcing”?
Look, it’s fine for a person to tell me he doesn’t want to discuss religion with me. I would respect that request and we could talk about something else or say our goodbyes. But from now on if a person tells me to stop forcing my beliefs on him I will simply ask, “What do you mean by ‘forcing’?” And that person will need to man up and admit he just doesn’t want to have a religious conversation.