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Duty to Proclaim Not to Convert
Our Duty to Proclaim
Jesus instructs all Christians to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 NJB) Thus, Christians have a duty to proclaim the Gospel. So, how do we proclaim the Gospel? See how Mother Teresa did it.
Mother Teresa says, “What was the good news Christ came to announce?
God is love.
God loves each one of us.
God loves me.
God loves you.
God has made you and me for greater things: to love and to be loved. We are not just numbers in the world.” (Loving Jesus, 58)
“The whole gospel is very, very simple. Do you love me? Obey my commandments. He’s turning and twisting just to get around to one thing: love one another.” (No Greater Love, 21)
“If you give to the people a broken Christ, a lame Christ, a crooked Christ—--deformed by you, that is all they will have. If you want them to love Him, they must know Him first. Therefore, give the whole Christ—--to the Sisters, first, then to the people in the slums. Do I give the Christ who is full of zeal, love, joy, and sunshine? Do I come up to the mark? Or am I a dark light, a false light, a bulb without connection, having no current and therefore shedding no radiance? Put your heart into being a bright light. ‘Help me to shed thy fragrance everywhere I go.’ (Contemplative at the Heart of the world, 122)
“Let the poor, seeing you, be drawn to Christ. Poverty makes people very bitter, and they speak and act without realizing what they do. But do they remember Christ when they see you—--even if they get angry—--because you remind them of Christ?
Draw them to God but never, never to yourself. If you are not drawing them to God, then you are seeking yourself, and people love you for yourself and not because you remind them of Christ.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the world, 122)
“In order to be Christians, we should resemble Christ; of this I am firmly convinced.
Gandhi once said that if Christians lived according to their faith, there would be no more Hindu left in India.
People expect us to be consistent with our Christian life.” (In My Own Words, 100)
“Gandhi felt fascinated at knowing Christ. He met Christians, and felt let down.” (In My Own Words, 98)
“Often we Christians constitute the worst obstacle for those who try to become closer to Christ; we often preach a gospel we do not live. This is the principle reason why people of the world don’t believe.”(In My Own Words, 100)
Father Henri Nouwen advises how we are to preach the Gospel of Christ:
“Why must we go out to the far ends of the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus . . .? We must go out because we want to share with people the abundant love and hope, joy and peace that Jesus brought to us. We want to ‘proclaim the unfathomable treasure of Christ’ and ‘throw light on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden through all ages in God, the creator of everything.’ (Ephesians 3:8-9)
What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it to every human being we meet.” (Bread for the Journey, Aug 3)
Even God cannot convert a person unless he allows God to convert him.
Christians must prepare in advance and be ready to give the right answers to questions of conversion and salvation. St Peter tells us to “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 TEV) St Paul encourages us to be very careful concerning our speech, "Your speech should always be pleasing and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone." (Colossians 4:6 TEV) We are therefore, exhorted to learn how to give the right answer, in a sensitive, gentle and respectful manner, the hard questions of salvation and conversion that may come our way.
However, there is much confusion on the topic of conversion. There is no need to feel proud, no need to feel guilty and no need to feel that it is our job to convert another person. How so?
Some Christians announce with great pride, blatantly or subtly, how they have converted someone to Christianity through their knowledge. Others feel guilty that they are unable to convert their spouse, parents, relatives, friends or strangers to Christianity. So they let their misplaced guilt weigh them down. They fall into the trap of thinking that if they were just more articulate, if they were just more aggressive about trying to get the person to understand the Gospel, or if they were a bit better Christian, then the person would be converted and fall on his knees in repentance and receive Christ.
But, a person’s spiritual decision to convert or not, is his. God has given him the free choice to convert or not. God is not going to take that choice away from him. Thus, no individual can convert another person. That is God’s job. Jesus says so, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” (John 6:44 NIV). “People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me.” (John 6:44 TEV) St Paul emphasises that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convert, as “No one can confess ‘Jesus is Lord!’ without being guided by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3 TEV)
We are not responsible for the conversion of another person. God would not place on our shoulders the eternal destiny of another human being. The weight would be too crushing. The person---and not us---will be held accountable by God someday for the choices he made about God during his life here. Our role is simple: love God and love our neighbour. Live out our faith as authentically as we can and ask God to use our life to point our neighbour’s eyes toward Him.
See what Mother Teresa says about Conversion:
“To convert and sanctify is the work of God, but God has chosen the Missionaries of Charity in His great mercy to help Him in His own work. (A Life for God, 96)
“Oh, I hope I am converting. I don’t mean what you think. I hope we are converting hearts. Not even Almighty God can convert a person unless that person wants it. What we are all trying to do by our work, by serving the people, is to come closer to God. If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him. If we accept Him fully in our lives, then that is conversion. What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept. But I cannot prevent myself from trying to give you what I have.” (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 136).
“I am not afraid to say I am in love with Jesus because He is everything to me. But you may have a different picture in your life. And this is the way that conversion has to be understood—--people think that conversion is just changing overnight. It is not like that. Nobody, not even your father and mother, can make you do that. Not even Almighty God can force a person. Even Jesus, though He was God Himself, could not convert the hearts of the people unless they allowed Him to.” (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 136—137)
“We never try to convert those who receive (our aid) to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or agnostics become for this reason better men—--simply better—--we will be satisfied. Growing up in love they will be nearer to God and will find Him in His goodness.” (Life in the Spirit, 81)
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