Some of us take the great commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ a bit too far. We interpret it to mean we should force everyone, whether they like it or not, to get saved.
But that’s not what the Bible says at all. In this post, I discuss what the Bible says about forcing religion on others and how we should go about converting souls for Christ.
What You'll Learn Today
Is It Okay To Force Your Beliefs On Others?
If you read the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, nowhere will you find Jesus or any of the apostles forcing religion on other people.
They went around preaching and teaching the word of God, but never forced anyone to repent and convert. The power of their words as well as their actions and miracles were enough to rapidly grow the early Church.
For example, remember in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were in jail and there was an earthquake that sent the doors open? Instead of escaping, which would have been against the law, the two apostles stayed put. When the jailer woke up and found them still there, their actions convinced him to convert.
While you might have good intentions, it is never okay to force your beliefs on others. God wants unbelievers to come out of their own deep conviction, not fear or obligation.
Something else to keep in mind is that forcing salvation on others often does more harm than good. It can break up families and create division between friends.
You may even find yourself producing some bad fruits like impatience and anger towards others.
God himself is patient with people.
2 Peter 3:9 Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
What Does The Bible Say About Forcing Religion On Others
Do Not Judge Anyone
Romans 14:1,4 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions…Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
It is easy to sometimes feel better than unbelievers. But God says we should be kind to everyone, make them feel welcome to the Body of Christ, and avoid passing judgment.
Remember that it’s not because we were good that God saved us. It is his grace and kindness. Don’t forget where you came from.
Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Show Love & Kindness
Some of us limit the commandment ‘to love one another as we love ourselves’ only to fellow brethren. But Jesus meant we should love everyone, regardless of their faith.
Love is one of the most powerful tools for converting people to salvation. It’s a light and salt that attracts unbelievers to the Church.
The verse above from Titus continues as follows in verse 4 & 5: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
We ourselves were shown kindness and love. So that is exactly what we need to show everyone else, and especially the unbelievers.
Trust God’s Power
Sometimes, in our pride and arrogance we think that we have the power to convert people to salvation.
Yes, God has given us a mission to be fishers of men; to teach and spread his word. But ultimately, it is God who opens the heart of people and brings them over to the good side.
What often happens is that we think our words are powerful enough to convert unbelievers. When they don’t, we get angry, impatient and frustrated.
Philippians 1:6 reminds us that it is God who does the work of converting sinners, we are merely his servants: being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Here’s Paul, one of the greatest apostles, talking about his preaching.
1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5 When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God…My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
If People Are Stubborn, Walk Away
When people are stubborn and won’t listen to anything you have to say, we often respond by being even more forceful.
That’s not the right response. Here are two examples in the Bible showing us what to do when dealing with stubborn unbelievers.
In Matthew, Jesus gives his disciples the following instructions before sending them out.
Matthew 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
‘Shaking dust off one’s feet’ means separating yourself from stubborn unbelievers and letting them be. You’ve done your bit. If they still don’t believe, God will judge them.
And here’s what Paul tells Titus.
Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Avoid Showy Religion
Another method we believers sometimes use to convert others is to show off our religion. You’ll find christians reading the Bible, singing or praying loudly in the presence of unbelievers to somehow convince them to get saved.
God hates that. It’s what Jesus called out the Pharisees for doing.
Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Be The Salt and Light Of The Earth
The best way to get people to convert is for them to see the work of God in you. Teachings and preachings are good and important, but most of us are not teachers nor pastors.
So the best tool we have for converting people to salvation is not our words but our deeds. Jesus describes it as being the salt and light of the earth.
Matthew 5:14,16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Your mission is not to go around forcing everyone to listen to you about the gospel. It’s to be the best example of a christian.
Make sure you are producing the fruits — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and so on.
Should You Force Religion on Kids and Teenagers?
We are clear that forcing religion on others is wrong and unbiblical. But does this also apply to kids and teenagers? Aren’t they too young to choose for themselves?
These are questions that many parents ask. They see no problem forcing their kids to go to church or getting them to attend things like Bible study.
As this theologian explains, there’s a difference between forcing kids to go to church and using your authority as a parent to get them to attend church, the same way to have them go to school.
After all, church is one of the most important places for gaining biblical teaching to help them grow in the path of righteousness.
Being part of a fellowship is also very important for children.
If they seem to really hate going to church, then it’s worth finding out exactly why. They might have valid reasons (e.g. someone in Sunday school bullies them).
As kids grow older, however, even your authority is no longer as effective. But if you’ve brought them up with God’s love and commands, you won’t have to force them to go to church when they are teenagers.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
But things happen despite our best efforts. If they veer away from the right path, you have no choice to treat them as you would any other unbeliever. Pray for them and treat them with love, kindness and patience.
But don’t force religion on them. That doesn’t usually turn out well. You are more likely to drive them further from God.