A lot can happen in a day. Recently the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association offered to fly me to North Carolina to join with other denominational leaders to speak into a new evangelistic initiative being considered for 2013. Then less than 24 hours later, I was sitting around the table at the Interfaith Conversation meeting in Toronto.
These two back to back meetings took me from one end of Christianity’s faith expression spectrum, to another. One emphasized conversion, the other collaboration.
I have been intrigued by these opportunities. Both are valid for being church in our current society. How do we learn to respectfully share our personal conversions and faith perspectives in a multi faith context?
There may be more similarities in the two conversations than I first realized. Both meetings invite us to tell our story. Both initiatives require respectful exchange with others. Both proposals are promoting the peace of others.
Canada is both a secular and interfaith context. This has resulted in a growing hesitancy to converse about matters of faith. Our fears range from disinterest to rejection. Both are experienced but neither is inevitable.
Within an interfaith environment, we must be able to tell our story as Christian people. It is not offensive to speak of your own experience with God through Jesus Christ. It is not offensive to express deep gratitude for your experience. In fact this is expected by other religious people. It is offensive however, not to reciprocate and also embrace the posture of a listener. In fact the ability for different faith perspectives to respectfully express their passions to one another is critical in a growing secular society. Nothing discredits faith more than religious conflict.
Within a secular environment, we must also be able to tell our story as Christian people. It is a near universal human trait to resist coercion, to react negatively, to feel disrespected. But there is nothing offensive in sensing the right time and place – the opportunity – to sensitively and sincerely share the deep fulfillment and meaning found in one’s personal experience of faith in Jesus Christ.
Our hesitations about sharing faith in some circumstances can serve a greater good, but hesitations need not become a general posture for all situations. If we are afraid of being arrogant than let’s not be arrogant. If we are afraid of being disrespectful, then let’s not be disrespectful.
The story of God’s passion and grace is a good story. It is a welcoming story. It is a story that can be shared respectfully, humbly and honestly. An authentic personal story can make one’s Christian faith journey that much more real for the listener.