TODAY'S PAPER
91° Good Morning
91° Good Morning
LifestyleColumnistsGod Squad

God Squad: Deflecting invitations from other churches

 I was born, raised, attend and have been very active in a Christian church. I also help bring less fortunate and elderly people to services. I'm very proud of my religion, and I'm sure it shows. The problem I'm having is that some family members and many good friends from another Christian church continually invite me to attend their services. I always respond cordially, but it's come to the point where I feel somewhat offended by these invitations. I truly get the feeling these people think that if I don't believe as they do or attend their church, I won't be granted salvation. I love my religion just as much as they love their own. What would be the best way to convey how I feel?

-- A Saints fan from Shreveport, La.
 

I can sense your kindness through your words. What you describe also happens to me. Some readers seem to feel there's nothing wrong in asking me, a rabbi, to give up Judaism and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior just because they sent me an e-mail.

I've often explained that although I consider such requests to change my path up the mountain naive, they're not insulting to me, nor should they be for you.

There are two reasons people urge others to leave their religion and convert to a new faith or a new denomination within the same faith (some people who write to me are Jews who want me to become their kind of Jew).

One reason is bad, and one is naive but kind. You have to know the person to know which reason motivated them to proselytize you. The bad reason to propose conversion is that you harbor hatred for the religion of the person you're trying to convert. Sadly, I've received letters from people who truly seem to hate Islam seeking to convert Muslims. This kind of bigoted proselytizing is a disgrace to all those of true faith and gives religion a bad name.

The second reason is fueled by love and joy. Such people believe that the Good News of their faith is so liberating, joyful and loving that they just want to share it with everyone who will listen. Asking them to be quiet is like saying they shouldn't share a great gift.

That's how I try to receive their invitations, and that's how I suggest you do so. There's no reason to think such people are cursing you or your church. They may just believe that the message of salvation is delivered with greater clarity, love and passion in their church.

However, I agree with you that even a kind offer can become burdensome repeated over and over again.

My suggestion is that you say something like this to them: "Thank you so much for your kind invitation. I'd be delighted to join you sometime when your invitation doesn't conflict with my own religious prayer schedule. Until I let you know when that visit might occur, I would ask you a favor in return. Please respect my faith and respect my freedom to choose a church that comforts me.

"I'm not asking you to change and come to my church, and I think that it's both fair and mannerly for you to respect my choices. I know you don't consider your repeated invitations to me to be spiritual harassment but I'm coming to see them that way. You put me in a terrible position of either turning you down and seeming rude, or accepting and being forced to surrender my place of worship and also let down the people who depend on me to get them to church.

"You claim to be true Christians, but your insistence on there being just one true way for all Christians to find Christ strikes me as distinctly un-Christian. This is how I read the word of God: 'There are different gifts but the same Spirit. There are different ministries but the same Lord. There are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone . . . it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as He wills.' (I Corinthians 12:4-11).

"So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no need for you to ever invite me to your church again, and, if you do, you'll be sorry."

(OK, so maybe you might want to leave out the last line. I admit it might be a tad harsh.)

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More Lifestyle