Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“And the master told the slave, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, so that my house might be filled.’ ”
Jesus, in Luke 14:23
When Christian missionaries came to America with the early Spanish explorers, they brought with them the mind set of religious totalitarianism. Their offer to American Indians could be summed up as this: “Convert to our religion, or die!” Many an Indian in the new world was burned at the stake because he or she refused to cease from their old ways and agree to be baptized into the Catholic faith.
The Christian faith is a faith of ceremony; it is a religion that is “in the flesh”. Therefore, men can be forced to participate in it. But the way of Christ is “in the Spirit”; it is a way of the heart. There are no ceremonies in Christ. His way is the way of life. Therefore, no one can be forced to partake of it. Even in the Old Testament, God refused to accept any sacrifice that was not willingly offered. Much more is that the case in this New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
If your religion is a kind of religion that someone can be forced to participate in, then your religion is not God’s religion. Men can force other men to submit to a religious ceremony, such as Christian baptism, but no one can be forced to partake of Christ. Who can force Christ to baptize anyone, or teach anyone, or heal anyone, or hold communion with anyone? The Lord of heaven and earth does the will of the Father, not the will of men. He will baptize, but only if a soul truly repents. He will heal, but only if a soul truly has faith. He will teach, but only if a soul truly humbles itself at his feet. He will grant communion, but only in spirit; never in the flesh.
Because those who find the truth want so badly for others to find it, too, they are often accused of trying to force others to believe it. That is not the case. No one can be forced to believe or to participate in the true gospel. When Jesus told his disciples to “compel them to come in,” he did not mean to threaten to burn people at the stake if they did not submit to you. He meant only for us to testify to what he has done for us and to be so full of love and joy and peace that those around us are provoked to come and know Christ for themselves.