I was recently told that Christians are disrespectful because they evangelize. The reason is that evangelism requires the Christian to assume he is right and the other person is wrong. Here are three quick comments I offered in my response.
First, virtually everyone in the conversation about religious belief thinks they’re right and the other person is wrong. Sure, the Christian thinks he’s right, but so does everyone else. If the Christian is talking to an atheist, then the atheist thinks he is right and the Christian is wrong about God’s existence. If the Christian is talking to a relativist, then the relativist thinks he is correct about relativism and the Christian is wrong about believing there is only one Truth. If the Christian is talking to a Hindu, then the Hindu thinks the Hindu narrative is accurate and the Christian is wrong to restrict Jesus to his religion and not allow Hinduism to appropriate Jesus as a sage or god. Therefore, if Christians are deemed as disrespectful for assuming they are right and others are wrong, then everyone else in the conversation is disrespectful as well.
Second, Scripture commands believers to evangelize. It’s part of our identity as ambassadors for Christ to fulfill the mission of proclaiming the message of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor. 5:18–20). Therefore, evangelism can’t be disrespectful by virtue of the fact that the Bible commands it. It’s understandable that non-Christians might perceive Christians as disrespectful, but if Christians are only considering God’s perspective, then they can rest assured that God is not displeased with their efforts to proclaim the message of reconciliation to the world. After all, he has commanded it.
Third, it is possible to be disrespectful when you evangelize, but the problem is with the manner in which you evangelize, not the act of evangelism itself. There is no doubt that Christians have been disrespectful when they have shared their convictions with others (I know I have at times). It’s easy to come across as condescending or rude. That’s why it’s important to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ, and that we represent Jesus in everything we say and do. Therefore, we should strive to be patient, kind, and loving whenever we’re telling others about the gospel.
Evangelism, then, isn’t intrinsically disrespectful. What matters most is the manner in which you evangelize. Indeed, that’s what matters most in any conversation where people hold different views. If you speak with care and kindness, I think most disagreements can be characterized as civil. Let’s, then, not bring a disrespectful manner to our evangelism and at least avoid this part of the objection to evangelism.