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A few days before Christmas, stories started appearing about how Pope Francis suggested that it was “unchristian” of believers to share their faith with others.
He told a group of high school students, “In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith.
“And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: “But why do you do this?” And yes, I can speak then. But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing.
“If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the church does not grow by proselytism.”
When I heard that, I was stunned because in Luke 10:2-3 Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”
And Jesus said that seconds before he dispatched seventy-two disciples to go ahead of him into various towns to preach about God’s kingdom.
I think I know where Pope Francis is coming from, because he also mentioned how wrong it is for people to be told to either accept the Christian faith, or be killed.
After all, a forced conversion is not a conversion any more than baptizing a sleeping infant automatically makes him or her a Christian. The decision must be made by each individual as to whether he or she wants to follow Jesus.
But, what the pope also appears to be saying is that, as Christians, when we see others going down the wrong path, we aren’t supposed to even suggest that’s a bad idea unless we are invited to share our stories.
I can testify from my own experience, that I would never have put my faith in Christ is some brave individuals did not risk offending me by telling me that I was, indeed, on the wrong path and alerting me to where that would lead.
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