by Steven Chan
Some think that religion is a personal matter and that therefore one should not be “aggressive” in trying to win others over or attempt to try to convert others – out of respect for them or their existing views on religion. It is true that one would be put off by anyone being be “too aggressive” to the extent of being “unpleasant” or even to the extent of using threats or force. The idea of “forcing” acceptance of religion by shoving it down one’s throat is not sanctioned by the Scriptures.
The invitation of the Lord to all is well-stated in Rev 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” His invitation to all is this: “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”; He never demanded that He be accepted by those did not want to receive Him.
In Luke 9:53-56 (KJV), when some did not receive Jesus, He did not force them to accept Him: “And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” Sometimes, some believers fail to exhibit the same spirit as Jesus Christ. They think that they are doing God’s Will by “trying to force others to accept” Jesus.
In Matt 10:14, Jesus told His disciples how they were to respond to those who would not receive them or the gospel: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.” He did not teach them to act as a nuisance to them or to harass them until they believe.
When the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia did not receive the preaching of Paul, he just moved on to preach others who may be more receptive to the gospel: “And the next sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. And Paul and Barnabas spake out boldly, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:44 -46)
And Paul had a more receptive audience among the Gentiles: “And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spread abroad throughout all the region.”(Act 13:48)
When the Jews continued to oppose his preaching, he “shook off the dust of their feet against them” and moved on to another city, Iconium: “But the Jews urged on the devout women of honorable estate, and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and cast them out of their borders. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium” (Act 13:50-51)
Their rejection by the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia did not discourage them in any way:
“And the disciples were filled with joy with the Holy Spirit.”(Act 13:52). Indeed they were filled with joy with the Holy Spirit. We should always be engaged in the work of God even when we have been rejected by some. This is because there will always be others who will accept the gospel.
In Act 18:4-6, when the Jews in Corinth also rejected the preaching of Paul, he followed what Jesus said by “shaking out his raiment” (similar to “shaking the dust from one’s feet”) and moving on to preach to the Gentiles:
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the word, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed, he shook out his raiment and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”
Without forcing the gospel down the throats of unwilling people, Paul nevertheless “reasoned and persuaded” those who would listen to him. So, it is alright for us to try to reason and also to persuade others to become Christians as Paul also tried with King Agrippa. When King Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?, Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”(Acts 26:28-29).
Why was Paul so committed to wanting to persuade everyone to be a Christian? It’s because he truly believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he wanted all men to know the truth about Him so that they too can have the hope of salvation by believing in Him. If we truly believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and that there is no salvation in any other name except the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), then it is inconsistent with that conviction that we would not want to reason or persuade others to become Christians as well. Let’s keep on “reasoning and persuading” as many as possible that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It does not matter that it may take a short time or a long time to reason or persuade.
But if these people reject the gospel, then we should just move on to others who may be more receptive towards the gospel. Let us not be discouraged; neither should we become nuisance to those who refuse to believe in Him. As we preach the gospel daily, we will then experience the joy of preaching the Word.