3/15/17 Bob - about 60
A friendly-looking older man was sitting at the coffee shop, looking like he would like someone to talk to in the midst of all the business-types and college students busily working on their computers around him. I asked if we could talk about what he believes happens after this life, and he turned into a friendly and animated encyclopedia of information about the religions of the world. Bob, about 60, wanted to tell me what many other religions believe before sharing his own personal beliefs. I guess he wanted me to know he had considered all his options. He also told about a near-death experience and some dreams of encounters with angels he claims to have had which have brought him to his present personal beliefs. He believes basically that one must be sincere and faithful within whatever religion they find themselves in order to go to heaven, which for him is Catholicism. He had a very roundabout way of explaining his beliefs and it took a lot of patient listening, but I wanted to keep my word because, after all, I had only asked to hear his beliefs and sharing mine hadn't been part of our original agreement. In the end I feel it was worth it because he finally began to ask me about mine.
He wondered out loud "Did God send you to talk to me today so that you could learn something from me, or did He send you here to teach me something?" When he found out I am pretty firm in my biblical Christian theology he realized that our beliefs were quite different from each other, and he asked if I was there to "convert" him to my way of thinking. From his point of view, since all religions are equally valid then no one has the right to try to try to change anyone to their beliefs. I told him that no, my goal for the conversation was not to convert him but to simply help him to think about things in a way that God might work through, and that I enjoy learning a lot in the process.
But I did say that ultimately, yes, I would like him and others to believe the Gospel as I do. After all, I believe in it for myself so why wouldn't I want others to believe in it too? I believe in a faith that is meant to be shared with others, yes, but it is also a faith in which the burden for converting the soul is a work that only God can accomplish. I share my experiences, I share what I know from the Bible, I express godly love and concern for others, but I don’t need to "shove it down their throats". Bob said he respected that I am sincere in sharing my beliefs without feeling the need to force others to believe the same way.
We should be passionate about sharing our faith, and we need make no apologies for it even if many in the world look down on us for doing so. But we don’t need to be so overly zealous that we try to do the life-giving and heart-changing work only God can do.