Recently, I was thinking about a particular scene in the movie “Training Day.” In the scene, Alonzo (a cop played by Denzel Washington) jokingly says to Hoyt (his young protégé played by Ethan Hawke) that every criminal a cop kills in the line of duty will be his slave in the afterlife. Something about this scene made me think about where our hearts are when we, as Christians, share our faith with non-believers. What is our motive?
The cop that’s referred to in the joke kills criminals not because he wants to protect the innocent, but because he wants to have slaves in the afterlife; the cop’s motives are selfish, even though his actions are good. Likewise, do we as Christians share our faith hoping to score holy points? Do we want another “heathen conversion” notch under our belts or are we doing it out of love for others and for the glory of God? This distinction is important because I think one’s motivation affects their approach in at least three ways that I can see:
1. You’re more likely to be argumentative, than compassionate.
When speaking with a non-believer you’re likely going to encounter many falsehoods and misconceptions. If you’re motivated by selfishness, then you may focus too much time trying to prove yourself right, which is likely to be counterproductive. Instead we should spend more time listening, so that we can get at people’s hearts. When Jesus spoke to the rich young man in Matthew 19, He was able to expose the young man’s false sense of righteousness. Doing that in our interactions can be a huge step in the right direction.
2. You’re more likely to be overly eager in securing the conversion.
When Christians come off like a pushy car-salesman trying to close a deal, we are likely going to meet resistance. If we remember instead that only God can give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6), then we will be more like a patient gardener.
3. You’re less likely to develop lasting relationships.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re someone’s project. If you have the wrong motivation, people will see that you aren’t as interested in them as you are interested in changing them.
The bottom line is that the decision to become a follower of Christ doesn’t come easy for some people, if it ever comes at all. Either way, Christians really have to make sure that they share the Gospel because they have a genuine love for people and not because they want to pat themselves on the back.