If there’s one subject I have written about numerous times it is how Evangelicals almost always have ulterior motives when it comes to their interaction with the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Evangelicals are taught from an early age to be aware of the unsaved people around them; to always be looking for opportunities to sell them a new sweeper, uh, I mean share the gospel with them. In many Evangelical churches, congregants are reminded of the importance of daily seeking out sinners in need of salvation. Keep in mind Evangelicalism is an exclusivist sect which believes that many of the people who lay claim to the Christian label are actually unsaved. The average American Evangelical has been told that the vast majority of their fellow citizens are headed for Hell, and that it is their duty to keep that from happening.
I attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) in the 1970s. One song we frequently sang in chapel went like this:
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry
Souls for Jesus, we will fight until we die
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry
For most of my Christian life, my concern for lost souls was an ever-present reality. Everywhere I looked I saw lost people, similar to Haley Joe Osment in the movie The Sixth Sense where he said “I see dead people.” I saw “dead” people everywhere I looked; people dead in trespasses and sin; people standing on the precipice of Hell and eternal damnation. I thought at the time, how could Christians NOT be passionate about winning souls? While my zeal certainly waned as I aged (and became more cynical), as a young preacher, I was in the soul-saving business.
The problem with being so zealous is that it perverts your view of the world and how you interact with unbelievers and even Christians not of your tribe. It becomes hard to just love people as they are without thinking of what they could be if they only knew the wondrous, matchless grace of Jesus. That’s why when Evangelicals contact me offering friendship I always decline, knowing that lurking behind their offer is their pathological need to evangelize me. I know who and what I am. I know everything I need to know about the Bible, God, Jesus, and salvation. I don’t need to hear the gospel again. What could someone possibly say that I don’t already know? I am not an atheist because of a lack of knowledge. I’m an atheist because I don’t think the central claims of Christianity are true.
I suppose I could befriend an Evangelical if he or she were content to let me go to Hell in peace. This would require compartmentalization; not talking about Christianity (or atheism, for that matter) unless asked. I am sure that some Evangelicals and I have many things in common. You know, the stuff we all have in common. Unfortunately, hardcore religious beliefs, along with right-wing political beliefs, make such friendships impossible. I am capable of compartmentalizing my beliefs for the sake of maintaining friendships, but the Evangelicals I have met so far are not. (I am talking about real friendships here, not acquaintances or Facebook “friends.)
Recently, John MacFarlane, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, recently wrote a daily devotional titled Like a Good Neighbor. I have known John most of his life. He was raised in First Baptist, attended an IFB college, and has spent his entire adult life working for IFB churches. It is likely that John will be a cradle-to-grave Fundamentalist Baptist. I read his devotionals and follow his ministry from afar. I have seen nothing that suggests John had moderated one bit over the years.
State Farm Insurance has the motto, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Good neighbors are what we are supposed to be. As Christians, we have been given a very clear instructions concerning this.
Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. This is the simplest thing to figure out. Perhaps a person says, “I just don’t know what to do for my neighbor.” Yes, you do. If you were in their situation, what would you want done for you? Now, go do it for them.
This is a great opportunity to create open doors for sharing the Gospel. When people see the love of Jesus coming out in our actions, while they may not understand our motivation, they can see that something is different. The more we DO for someone, the more we can build a sidewalk from our house to theirs. Eventually, the ends connect, a friendship and trust have been established, and the door bursts open to share about the Lord and His saving grace.
John started out well, telling readers to follow the Golden Rule; doing unto others as you would want done to you. That’s a principle we should all live by. Where John goes off the rails is when he says that the motive for doing unto others as you would want to be done to you is their salvation; that treating others as you would want to be treated is just a means to an end. Good deeds become a lure on the end of a fishing line. The fisherman keeps gently pulling on the string giving the appearance of food to a fish, hoping the fish will bite. The “food” if swallowed, is anything but. It’s death, fileted and fried for the fisherman’s family.
That’s what good deeds become for many Evangelicals; bait used to attract and hook unwary fish. Instead of offering genuine friendship, Evangelicals offer friendship with strings attached. They aren’t interested in who and what people are. They are interested in what they can become if they only swallow the bait.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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