I have never been a very good proselytizer. For one, I am not sure I think it is a very good idea to force people to change religions because I think that I have found the Truth. On the other hand I also believe that the world is in need of a savior and that Jesus Christ has saved and transformed my life. It is Good News that I desire to share and find it unethical not to share with someone this Good News that found me.
So many of us do not know what to do with the action of proselytizing too because it has been used in very harmful ways. Converting people has been justification to promote all sorts of harmful things from colonialism to white supremacy, from slavery to angry Christians yelling “turn or burn”. Christian conversion has a bit of a baggage.
So what is one to do with the commandment to make disciples? Are we to ignore this Great Commission of Christ?
Rather than proselytizing, perhaps Christianity should focus on proximity.
As I read the Gospel stories of Jesus, he is most able to convert hearts to the kingdom of God not by proselytizing them, but by being in close proximity to them. He befriends the tax collector and the sinner. He shakes hands with the scandalous and allows the unclean to touch him. He elevates children and honors women. Just being in his presence, being in proximity to him, Jesus converts many.
It is not that we are to avoid the Great Commission to make disciples. It is that we are to be aware of how we do this. We follow Jesus who did not proselytize the non-converted but was in proximity with all.
The Rev. Jason Valendy, along with his wife the Rev. Estee Valendy, serves as co-pastor of Saginaw United Methodist Church in Saginaw, Texas. This post is republished with permission from the author’s blog JasonValendy.net.