A: When they ask.
The other day I experienced THE WORST, most inappropriate example of proselytizing I have ever witnessed. (Evangelical pun not intended.)
I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, weeping over some bad news about my ill infant son, when someone I love decided to bring up the long and narrow path versus the short and wide path, and the importance of choosing the right one.
It kind of blows my mind that any human being would need to be told that this was the wrong moment to preach at another human being, but apparently it’s not that obvious to everyone in the world.
Knowing that Ben and I are Bible-believing, church-attending Christians ourselves, you might be surprised to learn just how often we are actually “witnessed” to. For being the wrong kind of Christian. For attending the wrong kind of church. For reading the wrong translation of the Bible. I swear to you, it is a fairly common occurrence. If you are not a person of faith, you might be surprised to find that you are not the only one who gets preached at. And still always jarring and slightly bewildering every time it happens.
Sometimes it comes from a stranger at the door in the middle of a busy afternoon. Sometimes it’s from a loved one during a carpool to an event.
The one thing all of these wildly terrible acts of “witnessing” have in common is problematic timing. That and a lack of respect for our own spiritual experiences and beliefs.
The thing is, Ben and I love talking theology. We appreciate having our beliefs questioned and tested in respectful dialogue. We enjoy being exposed to different ways of thinking. We would genuinely love to hear your perspective on religious matters.
But there is a time and a place for that stuff. And if you’re wondering when that time is, I’ll make it easy for you: I’ll initiate the conversation. I’ll ask you about your beliefs. (And tip number two: It’s NOT when I’m grieving my sick baby’s diagnosis.)
If you’re someone who is passionate about sharing your faith (and that’s awesome if you are – I’m so glad you’ve experienced such love and hope in your faith that you want to share it with others!) I think this is a good rule of thumb to live by: Share your faith (verbally) when someone asks about it.
(I’ve written about this subject before, from when I used to be a really active and vocal witness for Christ.)
Otherwise, please stick to sharing your faith by your actions and attitude.
Show them the love of Jesus through your generosity and kindness. Be helpful. Volunteer. Listen. Smile. Hug when appropriate.
Show them the power of the cross by your courage. Stand up against meanness and injustice. Defend the weak and helpless.
And when someone inevitably asks you why you do the things you do, go ahead and tell them. The timing will be right, and they’ll actually be able to hear what you’re saying.
Instead of wanting to punch you in the ovaries.
**(Updated to clarify: I’m mostly referring to questions of salvation. By all means, if you feel you have words of comfort from your faith that are appropriate to the situation, consider sharing them. But please don’t try converting anyone during a sensitive time.)**