By Ken White
The other day I was pondering the common thinking among Evangelical Christians; specifically about how we believe that when we share our faith with a non-believer we need to push them for a decision or give them a chance to respond to the message of life. Actually, I agree with that belief, but in a different way than most people think.
Recently I met a man named David who was standing outside the grocery store asking for money or food. After I helped him with a little food I started talking with him about his situation and about the Lord. What I found was that, while he agreed that there probably is a God, he didn’t see how he could trust someone he couldn’t see. When I was done talking to him, I did push him a little to make a decision, but it wasn’t to decide to believe in Jesus. Rather I gave him a book of John and a The Best News You’ll Ever Hear tract, and asked him to read them with an open mind to see what God has to say about the free gift of eternal life.
I think my conversation with David is a good example of the futility of trying to make someone decide to believe. How can a person who is not sure there is a trustworthy God decide to believe that the Bible is His infallible word and that He truly offers eternal life through faith in His Son? It is through exposure to truth and considering it with an open mind that people find themselves believing something. A person believes in Jesus when he becomes convinced that His offer of eternal life to all who believe is true and reliable.
While a person cannot make himself believe in Jesus or in anything else, God, in His Word, does have strong things to say against those who reject Jesus in spite of the evidence. John 3:36, for example, says that the wrath of God abides on the person who does not believe the Son. “Does not believe” in this verse is from one Greek word, apeitheō, and is better translated “disbelieves” or “rejects.” Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly rebukes the Pharisees because of their refusal to believe. So it seems that, while a person cannot choose to believe something they are not convinced of, they can choose not to believe because they refuse to even consider the evidence. On the positive side, they can decide to weigh the evidence with an open mind, and that is the type of decision I believe we should ask people to make. If a person does show interest, but is not yet convinced of the truth of Jesus’ claims, I believe that inviting them to study the word further together is also a good type of decision to push for. If a person does decide to study the issue and weigh the evidence, then God can use His word in that person’s heart to draw them to faith in Christ.