Sharing faith, in Christian terms, is known as “evangelism.” This is the English rendering of a Greek word meaning “to proclaim the good news.” That’s a problem, because the news isn’t always good.
There was a subtext to the evangelization method I was taught that went something like this: “God is really ticked off with you. He’s mad as hell – literally. And if you don’t pray this prayer, believe the way I believe, and don’t hurry to the baptismal waters as quickly as possible, then he will likely strike you dead before I’m finished talking to you.” I would then scurry away before God’s vengeance fell like fire on the sinner and I was caught in the collateral damage.
Again, there wasn’t much good news in such confrontations, because there was no sharing of God’s love. Love? Forget it. God didn’t love, God hated. God didn’t invite, God demanded. God didn’t plead, God prosecuted. God wasn’t pursuing wayward children as a heartbroken parent; God was dogging hardened criminals like a trigger-happy bounty hunter, a ready execution order in his hip pocket.
I no longer share with others my faith in an angry, perpetually irritated God who only wishes to stamp out humanity because I no longer believe in such a Deity. In light of Jesus, and the love of God he came to reveal to the world, evangelism can radically change. We are now “compelled by love,” to employ a phrase from Paul.
We share our faith not to coerce, force, intimidate, or to instill terror. We share our faith because of and for love’s sake – the only worthy compulsion. We have learned that God loves us, remarkably so, and loves our neighbors with equal measure. This love changes us; cures our dysfunction; and gives us new life. It really is “good news.”