The Church: Judgment Free Zone
The church is a building that people enter seeking peace, forgiveness, and a non judgment area. But Christians are labeled as one of the most judgmental groups, and even as a Christian, I can't argue against that statement. Seriously, I think making judgments is something that we all struggle with. Is it wrong? Of course. But it's human nature. To others practicing different religions, we may act like Christianity is superior to all of the other belief systems. And if they don't believe in anything at all, we may make judgments or assumptions or put labels on them. We judge the way people walk, talk, eat their food, wear their clothes, etc. We are so picky about who we hang out with because we don't want to be associated with “such a sinner.” Let's not forget that we're all sinners. A sin is a sin is a sin in God's eyes. If none of us deserve grace, then who are we to judge? (Romans 8:23 - For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).
If someone doesn't believe in Jesus, we can not blame them. Yes, it's frustrating and heart breaking, but we can not condemn someone because they doubt. Being in a relationship with God is hard to even comprehend. As I continue walking with the Lord and interact with more non-believers, I do realize how insane I sound most of the time. Mentioning my virginity, showing my purity ring, stating my morals, and not conforming is weird! Essentially, it disrupts society because the right thing to do is go along with the rest of the crowd. To the world, Christians are odd. We are not better than anyone else but we're also not intentionally being judgmental - we just want the world to come to Christ.
Also, there are a lot of wonderful people out in the world, Christian or not. In my opinion, unless we feel that the relationship is spiritually or emotionally dangerous, there is no reason why we can't be friends with non-believers. Many of my closest friends are not Christians and I don't find anything wrong with that. They are supportive and respectful of my beliefs and I try to be the same with theirs. We must remember as well that if someone is struggling with deep sin, they need Jesus the most. Judging them will only turn them away, but praying for them can make miracles happen!
One of the thing that frustrates me the most is when Christians look at each other and classify by his/her sin, or define others' “Christianity.” Only God can be the judge of that! Only He knows if they truly have accepted Him or not. However, I am guilty of asking that question “How are they even Christian? They way they talk, lie, struggle with addiction, give into temptation, conform, gossip, manipulate, hang out with the wrong crowd... Wow, what a way to represent Christianity.” But the truth is, we all have our own struggles. The hard part is that nonbelievers do tend to watch us like hawks because they expect us to be perfect and live up to the Godly standards.
When Evangelism Becomes "Too" Much
Typically, when people are against hearing the Gospel, or the good news of Christ, it's because they've previously heard the message in a distasteful way. We have to remember that many of the people we are preaching to have no idea what the Word consists of. It is important for us to share the good news in a way that is loving, kind, and nonjudgmental. God did not intend on or want us to minister by shoving the Gospel down others' throats. All we can do is tell others what we know; we can not force anyone to accept the information. Yes, our job is to plant the seeds, but ultimately it is God who waters them.
For example, there is nothing wrong with mentioning my beliefs to a teacher in a non-religious school. However, if I know for a fact they are an atheist and any “religion” makes them uncomfortable, it would be wrong of me to talk about it constantly. Putting a Bible on an atheist teacher's desk is not only inappropriate, but is not something that Jesus would do. An act like that would most likely start a disagreement causing you or someone else to be penalized. Sure, we can wear Christian t-shirts and write poems expressing our morals, but if we do it to almost intimidate or taunt certain individuals then we are ministering with the wrong intentions.
Another thing that's really hard to accept is that God does not need us to defend Him. More often than not, I find myself arguing with stubborn agnostics or atheists who are disrespectful. For example, some of my family members and loved ones - we have developed animosity and disgust towards each others' beliefs (or lack of them) because we let the argument go on and on. God does not want us getting angry at people because of their disbelief and He certainly doesn't want us to be fighting with others over Him. If we have to argue over Jesus, then what point is that proving? All we are called to do is told to tell the truth. If someone is not able to accept that truth, that is nothing we have control over. In a situation like that, all we can do is pray for the person. When people disagree with me, I tend to get angry and frustration starts to spiral. But God doesn't want that for me; He doesn't want that for US. God wants ministry to reflect His truth in a peaceful and kind way.
We must remember that nonbelievers do not and will not ever understand Christians' way of thinking until they become Christians themselves. Christianity is complex. It is deep. There are a lot of things involved too hard for us to even grasp at points. To the world, our beliefs are weird. They are unrealistic, fatalistic, and silly. 1 Corinthians 2:12 says “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” In other words, those who don't have the Spirit do not understand the Spirit. It's almost like a parent saying to a person with no kids “You don't understand how kids work because you don't have any.” Sure, you can know about kids but what better way to get inside their heads by having them yourself? It's the same way with Jesus and Christian principles. Whenever I find myself in a stubborn dispute with someone that seems to be escalating negatively, my mom will tell me to share the verse with that person. In general, if you speak those words to them and acknowledge that you don't expect them to understand, they won't have anything left to say.
The Hard Questions
What I'm starting to realize about ministering to others is that most of the time they truly do want to believe in God, but there are too many unanswered questions. Again, this can be related to them not understanding the Spirit without having it; it's extremely frustrating for all of us. I get it. Even as a Christian myself, there are some questions that do go unanswered. I have my doubts, as do all other Christians. But the thing is, we allow our faith and trust to be greater than that doubt, and this is essential for our Christian journey. For me personally, if I spent all day every day trying to figure out God, I would drive myself crazy. God is way too big and way too powerful to be able to understand Him in every aspect. I think it's safe to say that all of us Christians are going to have a massive load of questions to ask Jesus when we get to Heaven. I'm sure a lot of them will be answered while we're eating popcorn watching the Movie of Life on the big screen in Heaven!
Because I'm so vocal about my Christianity, I tend to be hit hard and bombarded with questions. Some of these are indeed ones that I, nor a lot of other Christians, do not know how to respond to. In this situation, the best thing to do is really look through scripture. Even if it may not seem like it, God covers pretty much everything in His big book of guidelines. I find it so cool that everyone can get something different out of the same passage! The context of scripture can be applied differently to everyone's life. God does not always answer things directly but He encourages faith and purposely speaks ambiguously so we can develop a closer relationship with Him. Likewise, many non-believers are extremely stubborn and will fight until they get an answer. This is when 1 Corinthians 2:12 is critical to use; to explain how they will not understand God's reasoning until he/she accepts Christ.
One thing that's important to know is that it's okay to admit when we do not know an answer. The Bible is a huge book, only Jesus knows it by it's entirety. If a question is asked and we know there's an answer to it but we don't know the verse by heart, it's okay. It's okay to tell the person we'll get back to them after researching it. Let's say you know the verse “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” but you do not know where it's located in the Bible. God is not going to punish you because you don't know what book of the Bible it's in. Don't hold back and not say a verse because you don't know the exact reference. God understands and so will the people you're ministering to. Content is more important over location.
Another thing that's helpful in ministry so we don't come off as judgmental, is studying apologetics. An apologist is someone who can easily defend their faith and knows how to prove it. This is really helpful when dealing with an atheist or someone who is so persistent in saying that God does not exist. In learning about apologetics, I've learned a lot about the fine line between truth and grace. For example, we should not tell a little girl whose mother just died “Oh, sorry, but if your mom didn't believe in Jesus, then yes, she's rotting in Hell.” Instead, it's better to say “I'm really sorry for your loss. The Bible does say that we can only enter Heaven if we believe in Him, but only God truly knows whether or not we accept Jesus. So it's not up to us to worry about.” Both responses are the truth, but only the second one is said with grace and empathy. Stating the truth without the grace can really turn someone away from the Lord completely, so it's important to be mindful of the things we're saying and how we say them.
I think in general, we judge everyone way more than we should. Jesus never judged, He's always loved. If we're trying to live like Jesus, than loving is the best thing we can do. I once made my Instagram bio “I just want to change the world and help save souls - is that too much to ask?” Just be an example and radiate His light to the rest of the world- that's the best we can do.