When I was still an atheist, I had occasion to be at a location in Toronto that was the site of constant protests. It was an alleyway sandwiched between two rows of low buildings. On the day that I attended the location, I was confronted by a Christian minister while trying to push past chanting protesters to get to a back gate.
“You’ll burn in Hell!” was the ministers greeting to me as he blocked my path and waved a pamphlet in my face. I responded with words that I won’t print here; his reply to my curses was to curse me back and lunge closer. “THERE’S NO HOPE FOR YOU IF YOU GO THROUGH THAT GATE!” he roared. I got a good look at his face while he was shouting at me. It was red with fury, but his eyes were dead cold. This to me at the time was the face of Christianity.
Ten years later I was born-again. The Jesus I came to know as a born-again believer was nothing like the minister who screamed and lunged at me in the back alley. I vowed never to be like that hate-filled man in my dealings with unbelievers.
Scripture is clear that most people are on the broad path and very, very few are on the narrow one. Scripture is also clear that people are on the broad path because they want to be. No-one forced them onto it. They are there because they want to be. I was an atheist because I wanted to be. The last thing I wanted as an atheist was to be a Christian.
Another way to look at it is that even knowing about the narrow path, most people don’t want to be on it. It is their free will choice to be on the broad path. God permits them their choice because he respects their right to choose. He doesn’t agree with their choice, but he respects their right to choose.
We need to do the same.
Jesus didn’t bang his head against the wall of unbelief.
He didn’t preach to unbelievers.
He didn’t scream and lunge at unbelievers, even those he thought might be condemned.
He let them go, just as he let those who no longer wanted to follow him go.
Even knowing years in advance that Judas Iscariot would betray him, Jesus didn’t try to talk him out of it. He was kind to Judas and treated him no differently than the other disciples. Even knowing that Judas had chosen against him, Jesus let him go.
We need to follow Jesus in everything we do, including letting those who want nothing to do with Jesus go. Just let them go. The same for people who once said they believed but have fallen away. Just let them go. The falling away was foretold in scripture, as was Judas’s betrayal, and Jesus says scripture cannot be undone.
We born-agains need to turn our attention instead to our own people, to born-agains who love God and follow Jesus. Time is short: We need to strengthen and encourage each other and let the rest go. Jesus said he didn’t come into the world to save the world but to minister to those who are his in the world. Most people in the world want nothing to do with Jesus; most of the people are of their own free will on the broad path, so let them go. Most Christians want nothing to do with God’s Commandments, so let them go, too. They are no longer our responsibility. They have made their choice. Respect their right to choose (like God does) and let them go.
But we are still to treat others as we want to be treated, whether they are believers or not. This command does not change.
So be kind to unbelievers and those who have fallen away. The time they have now is the best they will ever have. There is no promise of Paradise for them when they die. Be kind to them, knowing what awaits them. They are beyond your prayers, but you can still be kind to them.
“Love your enemies” is not just a catchy campaign slogan for God’s Kingdom.
It’s a Commandment.