An Open Letter to a Reader

Today, I received an email from someone through my site. Ordinarily, I would not choose to respond in such a public way to a person’s private email, but since it is so exemplary of the boundary-crossing and obsessive mindset that I used to witness often during my time in Evangelicalism, I thought it would be a helpful tool for many if I opened up my response so that others can see how problematic this sort of thing is.

I do not believe in giving out identifiable bits of info, so I will not include this person’s name in order to protect their privacy.

Using a generalized term to speak to this person also opens it up more to address a very real problem within Evangelicalism: the idea that harassment and gossip are justifiable as long as it’s done with the “right” motives.

Dear Reader,

you began by complimenting my latest poem. For that I thank you. Your words were very encouraging to my aspiring writer’s heart, and it was much appreciated. However, you wrote to me with an agenda in mind.

You immediately asked something of me. You told me, a stranger, the full name of your former colleague who you believe that God has laid on your heart to see saved. You asked me to pray not only for her salvation but also for her social and love life. You believe that she needs a God-fearing husband.

Perhaps she does need Jesus, but people do not find Christ through our pushing. It is not through our insistence. It is not by our will. It entirely between that individual and God.

We can be Christ to that individual by loving, as He did, without agenda. We can invest without the hope of recruiting another soul to the book of life. We can care about that person simply because they were created in the image of God. Anything else is crossing boundaries and often turns into harassment.

If you ever find this woman putting up walls and distancing herself from you, or overtly telling you to fuck off, it is entirely because you did not respect her.

If this happens, do not do as many eager Christians do in this situation and write it off as Satan’s influence pushing you away from her. You are behaving inappropriately. You should not be surprised if some vulgar language comes your way. Take responsibility for your actions, apologize, and don’t repeat the behaviour ever again.

Being concerned about the sort of man she marries is an example of crossing boundaries. It is none of your fucking business who she dates or marries, whether it’s a Christian man or an Atheist woman. A spouse is not and should not be responsible for the soul of their wife. Respect her enough to let her make her own relationship choices without judgment.

Being concerned about her social life and whether she has enough Christians around her is an example of your crossing of boundaries. It is entirely her choice who she chooses to socialize with, be it Christians, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, etc… She can find love through each of these relationships.

And wherever there is love, God is there.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7

Gossiping to me, a complete stranger, is an example of crossing boundaries. I understand you have concerns for her. But I should not know this poor woman’s full name. And I should not know how spiritually lost you believe her to be. For all I know, she actually is a Christian, but not the brand you prefer. Regardless, whatever this woman believes or does not believe is really not any of my business unless she personally chooses to reach out to me to discuss them.

If you love this person like you told me you do, back off. Seriously. Give her breathing room. Take the burden off of yourself to see her soul saved according to some arbitrary standard your church/tradition teaches. This isn’t your mission. Salvation is entirely between God and the individual.

Trust that God is merciful and loving. And if God is love, then He has a plan that includes grace for your former colleague’s soul.

Stop living in fear and projecting that fear onto your former colleague. Not only is this unhealthy and inappropriate, but it also is not of God:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:16B-18

We do not worship a God who arbitrarily punishes people because they didn’t marry a Christian spouse or didn’t have enough Christian friends around them to show them the way. We worship a God who is love. This God loves each and every person who ever was, is now, and ever will be. We have no need of fear wherever God’s love exists. Trust Him.

And He certainly does not need over-zealous Christians telling those who do not yet know Him that He is an insecure God who can only win souls through harassment, gossip, and the crossing of boundaries.

That’s not a God I would want anything to do with. I don’t know anyone who would.

Sincerely,

Shari

 

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