Should Christians stay in manipulative interfaith relationships?

Suppose you are in a dialog with someone over the most important things in all of reality–eternal life and the heart and holiness and the heinousness of sin and the glory of God and the nature of deity and the worship of the Creator and the promise of everlasting joy for believers and the future of eternal, conscious torment for idolaters. Whew. Important stuff, isn’t it? What would you do if this friend told you that if you ever asked penetrating questions or seriously challenged his beliefs or made an embarrassing moral accusation against him that he would cut off ties from you?

To be frank, I would not actively seek to continue interfaith dialog with such a person, nor do I think anyone else should either. This kind of relationship is manipulative, and it fosters a fear-driven, tip-toeing, truth-minimizing interaction that hardly is constructive or edifying. It usually ends up in the dead-end alley of worldly, teacup dialog, the kind that obscures boundaries, suppresses any overflow of a passion for the glory of God, and conceals moral outrage against what is objectionable before our holy God. If Mormons and Christians want genuine dialog (and I know many of us do), then we should be prepared for the real thing. Otherwise, it’s just a silly game.

Listening and understanding is very important, but as redeemed sinners we are also called to speak the truth in love. This is a far higher calling than casually sharing each other’s perspectives for mutually increased personal understanding. We are called to speak the truth as truth, not as a mere human viewpoint. We are called to do this lovingly and courageously–with brokenhearted boldness, not with cocky impudence or superficial affability.

We are ambassadors with an urgent message. We are emissaries with the very word of God in our hands and at the tip of our tongue. Our King’s message is not a suggestion. It is a call to repentance. It comes simultaneously as a plea from the heart of the caretaker of the planet and as an authoritative command from the sovereign of the universe. Humanity stands at the edge of the precipice. Either ever-increasing heavenly joy in the community of the saints or eternal punishment in the lake of fire await us.

As subordinates to the Great Commission we are called to give law to the proud and the gospel of grace to the humble. It is not an option to let our neighbor’s conscience sleep. If he cannot see his own sin, we are to expose the deeds of darkness (cf. Ephesians 5:11) and shine the light of the law using the word of God. There are only two kinds of responses to this: repulsion or humility. Humility opens the door for a key opportunity to share the gospel. Repulsion means you’ll probably have to move on.

As royal priests we are all called to what might be spoken of as “supremacy evangelism”: we are to proclaim the excellencies of the resurrected and exalted Christ–the one who is King, Creator, Judge, Savior, and God (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). This involves heralding the uniqueness of the divine majesty over and against the prevailing idolatry of our day. If someone essentially tells you that their idols are too sacred for open comparison with the great God of the Bible, do not believe them. No idol is sacred to our God, certainly not too sacred as to be torn down with his truth. People are precious in the sight of our God, but their idols are an abomination. Never forget this.

This of course can be done in a way that is flavored with recognizable humility and patience and love and genuine concern. In fact, it shouldn’t be done in any other way (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-25). But this doesn’t mean cowering to the demands of those who want immunity from correction. No matter how affable a person is, demanding exemption from the scrutinizing and exposing light of truth is egotistical and arrogant. Instead of casting your pearls before such people, move on to seek out the people whom God has prepared to be humble recipients of the kingdom of God.

Oh Lord, please bless your people with fruitful, evangelistic dialog, both with the best of long-term friends and with strangers with whom we have no future certain contact. Help us to speak the truth to their conscience, and help us overcome the fear of rejection. Help us to do this in love, having prepared ourselves in prayer and having immersed ourselves in your word and having felt compassion on the lost. Help us not to be enslaved or restricted by the fear of losing the praise of man. But Lord, help us to be winsome and strategic so that we may maximize and elongate our opportunities to share the truth in love to those whose hearts are receptive.

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