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I believed each person was a target for evangelism. We were to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of everyone. None were exempt. Not one moment was free from the pressure to witness, to give a reason for the hope that was within me, and persuade others to believe what I believed.
I thought this was motivated by love, concern for their eternal destiny, to rescue them from Hell. I cared about their souls. It was my duty to save them and bring them to church. They should be grateful!
To believe I must convert someone to my beliefs is to condescendingly believe that I’m better than they, and that I must intrude and absorb them into my culture. It’s the imperialist model of invading, conquering, and colonizing or annexing of another people that is inferior.
This is not love, but violence.
Two developments changed my mind.
The first was the humble realization that it’s arrogant to think I could change others when I couldn’t change myself. When I discovered that by loving myself I could become myself, I saw the application to relationships.
The second was when we learned that the best way to raise our children was to love them for who they are rather than for what we wanted them to be. Rather than thinking they needed to fulfill our dreams of who they should be by imposing our agenda on them, conquering them, invading their space and absorbing them into ours, we learned that loving them for who they are provided the safe space for them to learn how to be themselves.
Love transforms, not by twisting others into what we want, but by providing space to let them become and be who they are.