Dear Secular American,
I know what you have heard, that evangelicals are trying to force their religion down the throats of our country’s citizens by teaching creationism in the schools, fighting against gay marriage, and illegalizing abortion. I know how evil you think those agendas are. Fair enough, you are free to think that such agendas are evil and no doubt you have bought into the idea that is being proposed by the secular media that such agendas stem from people who take the Bible seriously and believe it to the Word of God. And I know how the media and silly documentaries like Jesus Camp and Religulous have told you that evangelical Christians are dangerous nut jobs who actually believe the Bible. If the goal of evangelicals is to force their religion upon secular American society, then I would agree, what evangelicals are doing is evil.
First, your thinking about the Bible needs to be challenged. If evangelicals are really utilizing the Bible to force their religion down other American’s throats, then those evangelicals are NOT taking the Bible seriously. Let me just challenge you to read the New Testament a little. Nowhere in the Bible do Jesus or any of the Apostles command Christians to force their religion on anyone or usher in a theocracy. Jesus tells his followers to preach the good news, to call people to repentance, and to give to the needy. Any “Christian” movement that attempted to force people to become Christians did NOT do so because the Bible told them to. In fact Jesus taught that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise His servants would be fighting (John 18:36). “For this purpose” Christ came into the world, “to bear witness to the truth.” That is what the Bible calls Christians to do–to bear witness, not to make people, who don’t want to be, Christians.
If evangelical Christians would take the Bible seriously–you, secular American, would have little to fear. You know what Jesus told his disciples to do when people would not receive them or their message? Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet and leave (Matthew 10:14)–scary huh? If you choose to reject the gospel, the Biblical Christian will simply pray for you, he may persist in speaking the truth to you in love, but he will never force you to accept the gospel because the Bible-believing Christian knows he cannot force you to do anything. So when you persist in unbelief, the Biblical Christian will simply move on and preach the gospel to other people and pray that some seed was planted that God will cause to grow (1 Cor. 3:6).
The Bible teaches that it is God who draws lost people to Himself–“no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Again, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3-6). A Christian who really believes the Bible knows that she/he is utterly incapable of causing you or anyone else to be born again. Biblically-minded Christians know that it is the “Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6). So all you have to fear from a Bible-believing Christian is a gospel presentation that you are free to reject. No doubt, a true Christian will try to persuade you (2 Cor. 5:11, 20) and implore you to be reconciled to God through Christ, but they will NEVER force your hand.
The goal of Biblical Christianity is to worship God and the testimony of the Bible tells us that we do that, not primarily in the political sphere but in the spiritual sphere (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Our war is fought in the marketplace of ideas and in the hearts of those to whom we preach the gospel and because conversion is the work of God we WILL NOT force it anyone, we will simply speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We live out our mission as Bible believing Christians by preaching, teaching, and proclaiming, never by forcing you to submit to the truth–one Day God will do that (Rom. 12:9). I believe the Bible is true and that in the end every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will confess Him as Lord, whether to one’s eternal glory or to one’s eternal shame in Hell. I know I can’t make you appreciate that and I won’t try to make you, but I will tell you the truth and pray that God would open your eyes so that you can see it! I apologize for those “Christians” who have made you think that the Bible teaches that our job is to force the world to bow the knee to Christ and shove our Christian morality down your throat. If that is your perspective, my guess, however, is that you learned to perceive Christians in such a way more from the media and perhaps from a few Biblically-uniformed “Christians” rather than from the Bible itself.
If evangelical Americans owe you an apology, it is this–“sorry for not taking the Bible seriously, because if we had, our primary agenda would not be abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution in the schools but rather preaching the gospel. I am sorry that many evangelicals (myself included) are far too uninformed on the Bible. We do not think those issues are unimportant, but they pale in comparison to how desperately you need to hear the gospel of Christ. We apologize that our politcal agendas have distracted us from what is most important–the gospel.” I will admit upfront that I believe abortion is wrong and that God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, but before we talk at any length about those issues, I want to talk to you about something far more urgent–I want to talk to you about the gospel:
God created the universe and is the greatest being. Before the universe was, God simply was–God is, was, and always will be. God is holy–He is perfect in every way, in love, in justice, goodness, and power. God created the World and He created it good. God created people in His own image, He created women and men to be in fellowship with him. He created them to love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him (Isaiah 43:6-7). There is a problem though, men and women freely chose not to worship God, in fact they rebelled against God’s holiness and tried to take His place despite how good and gracious God had been to them. Because God is holy and perfect in justice, He could not overlook such a heinous act of insurrection against Him or He would not be just. So the penalty of sin is death (Gen 2:17; Romans 6:23) and not just physical death but spiritual death, death cut off from the goodness and mercy of God (Isaiah 59:2). Every single one of us have sinned in the same way that the Adam and Eve did. We have sinned in that we have broken God’s laws (10 Commandments: we lie, we steal, we commit adultery–Jesus said you lust after a woman not your wife, you have committed adultery, Matthew 5:28), but more than just breaking the rules we have rebelled against God (Joshua 22:19, Rom. 1:18-20) by worshiping things other than God, who alone is worthy of worship. We have worshiped, valued, delighted in many things that are not worthy of worship. And God being ultimate and perfectly just, must punish us for our insurrection and that punishment is Hell. Which is a real place that Jesus talks about extensively (Matthew 10:28) and because no one is righteous before God and no one seeks for Him or worships Him, we all deserve to go to Hell (Romans 3:10-18).
That is the bad news of the gospel, but the gospel is profoundly good news, so here is the good news:
Though God is just and must punish us in our sin and rebellion against Him, He made a way for us to be forgiven and restored to the purpose for which He created us. We can be restored to a right relationship with Him in which we value Him supremely through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. On the cross Jesus was bearing on his own shoulders the punishment that sin deserves for all who believe in Him (2 Cor. 5:21; Romans 3:23-25; 1 Peter 3:18). If you will believe in Christ and turn from sin to Him, then Christ has died for you as a substitute. He died in your place that you would forgiven from sin. But more than that, Jesus conquered the curse of sin–death. He rose again from the dead to show that what sin has power to do, he has power to overcome. In His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death for all who would believe.
If that makes sense to you and you sense you need to come to grips with the God of the gospel, then I encourage you to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). Pray to God that He would make His Son real to you and that you would turn away from sin to God and embrace Jesus as Lord over everything in your life. That doesn’t mean you won’t sin anymore, you will, but you will then be free to begin living in a way that values God supremely and in valuing God supremely there is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Get a Bible (I recommend starting with the ESV or the NIV), read it, I recommend starting in the New Testament perhaps with the book of Mark or John. Find a church that preaches and teaches the Bible faithfully. Look for a church that does more than just tell you how to have a full life, look for a church that equips you with the Bible and encourages you to grow in fellowship with God and in conformity to Christ. Find a mature Christian who is willing to talk through your questions about the Bible and will hold you accountable to study and to grow in community with others at church.
Christianity is not so scary if you really believe in the God of the Bible.