Has anyone else ever noticed that it’s far easier to pray for our leaders when we agree with them? Or, when we do disagree with them, we find ourselves in many an intense moment entreating God to change the hearts and minds of those we’re told He has put in place to lead us, so that they would just lead as we want them to? We all have personal and corporate visions and versions of what it means to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, and I confess here and now before you all that when I pray, I’m often actually asking God to bring things about in line with my – carefully considered, heartily-prayed in and intensely-held – impression of what I think His will is.
When you write it down like that, it looks like hard work and makes me look fairly narcissistic. I wonder, am I alone in this?
I remember recently seeing one of those blessed Venn diagrams, showing the miniscule intersection between those who post on Twitter and those who voted Conservative in the recent general election. It may very well have been apocryphal, but I have to say that going in to the election I was pretty convinced that change was what was needed. My Twitter feed agreed with me. I was on safe ground. That exit poll was quite a rude awakening. I couldn’t understand why people hadn’t seen things my way.
So, I’d decided in my arrogance that we needed a change. The country needed to change and the Conservatives weren’t the answer, as I’d told a lot of people. Maybe you agreed with me. Maybe you didn’t. That’s not the point. The point is that the British people exercised a hard-won right to choose their leaders – a right that the Bible tells us God places over us, remember – and they chose the leaders we now have. And so I must pray for them, that they do God’s will, not mine.
This got me to thinking about evangelism and arrogance. As Christians, we think we have the answer to the question of the meaning of life: Jesus. He did what was needed to bring God and humanity together, forever, and unbreakably. We’re told to tell people this all the time, and to see new people added to our number all the time. If you’re anything like me, you’ve used phrases like “the only way to the father”, “best way to live”, “the only way to please God” and many others while trying to see people come to faith. We think we have the answers. We think people know deep down that they have a God-shaped hole that they know needs filling, if only we tell them persuasively or persistently enough, or if we create the right conditions for God to do His work.
All this may well be true, but I think there’s one key point that we can miss. Most people are actually quite content and comfortable. They like their lives. Perhaps they are blindly hurtling towards destruction, but actually they’re pretty happy. Like the recent Labour campaign, what do you do when you continually make the point that people need and want change, and then you find that actually, they don’t, and they’re quite happy, thank you very much?
Is evangelism a form of arrogance? We don’t need people to be like us, or we best not. I don’t think the Church would do very well with lots of people like me. God has brought all of creation together with Him in and through what Jesus has done. It’s my opinion – and it definitely is only an opinion – that it’s not the job to convince people that they want or need something they don’t want, but instead it’s the job of the Church to take seriously God’s invitation to partner with Him in the building of His kingdom, in being His light to the world, a Christian presence in every community, showing by our words and actions, the whole-life passion of our worship, our generosity and our care for others. We’re told to share the good news that God loves those He has placed around us in our communities, whether they know it or not.
So is there a need for evangelism? Of course there is. Is there a need to pray for those who don’t know Jesus and His love? Of course there is, but there is no call for arrogant triumphalism or empire-building. Nor does God seek the creation of worshipping clones. Who knows what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like eventually? Let’s enjoy the journey and make every effort to show the love of God to as many people as we possibly can. The rest is up to Him.