It is almost a timeless aphorism that politics is dirty. There are always hidden agendas in politics and ulterior motives. Little is as it seems and trust is a virtue perceived by those of us outside of politics to be in short supply. In the realm of politics even seeing is no longer believing, for how many of us actually believe and take what a politician says at face value?
How about someone sharing his or her religious faith with you? Indeed, it is unfortunate that Christians especially are often perceived in this day and age by non-believers to be pushing a less than altruistic agenda when sharing the gospel. Instead, evangelism is viewed by many non-Christians as an unwanted nuisance at best and a pernicious effort at forcible conversion at worst. To be sure, the agendas and methods of politics have often been mixed up into religious affairs. History is full of such activities and Christianity is no exception (think the Inquisition, for example). Perhaps this less than flattering history is what makes some non-believers wary of Christianity to this day.
Nevertheless we must address the core issue here: Are Christians forcing others to convert? It is biblically correct and humanly possible for anyone to be forcibly converted to Christianity? The answer to all these questions is an unequivocal "no". Most of the time, the myth about forced conversions usually comes from those who are either threatened or at loss for reasons or are simply angry.
First, Christianity is not a faith of outward conformity but rather, an inward decision of the heart.
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." - Romans 10:9,10
Following Jesus Christ is a decision one can only make through exercising one's will. So how can you ever force one to believe in the heart?
One does not become a Christian in any ritualistic way. The Word of God tells us that we have to believe in our hearts and then say with our mouths what we have already believed with our hearts. There is no ritual whatsoever that one has to go through to become a Christian. In this respect, some people are confused with the practice of Water Baptism. One does not get baptized to become a Christian but gets baptized because he is a Christian. It is a public declaration and an outward manifestation of that which has already happened in one's heart.
Before the heart can even be given the chance to change, though, the message itself must be shared. How else would people know about Christianity and what it means? This is the light evangelism should be seen in: Not an instrument of forced conversion but merely a sharing of knowledge. Some - especially in Asia - hold the notion that spreading the Gospel is part of some neo-imperialist American strategy to influence the world. That is absolutely absurd when one simply considers that Christianity started in the Middle East and spread throughout Europe more than a millennium before the United States even existed! Besides, what benefit is it to the U.S. government that a poor farmer in India accepts Jesus Christ as his lord and savior? Absolutely none!
Second, Christianity is a message of God's love for mankind. Jesus never left a sword for his followers to use for the proclamation of the Gospel but only the Scripture.
Jesus when crucified on the cross did not summon the angels that were at his disposal to avenge but instead forgave those who crucified him. Do you honestly believe that He who did not use the sword himself will encourage his followers to apply force towards conversion? On the contrary, it is clear that God's intended instrument for the conviction of hearts is His redeeming love.
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:12,13
India has been invaded over the centuries by many foreign forces. But never by love. Love does not use force but serves sacrificially.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16
Graham Staines, the Australian missionary, and his two sons who were burnt alive in India by religious fanatics are just one recent example of the love of Christ in practice today. They were in India serving lepers. As Vishal Mangalwadi said, "India needed to emulate, not immolate, the Staines."
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" - John 8:31, 32
Only the Truth can set us free. And that Truth is freely available to those who want it. No force is required or even desired. Read the Bible for yourselves and you will know the truth.
Everlasting life is a gift from God. It is possible only through placing your faith in the work of Jesus Christ. There is no force or compulsion involved, no hidden agendas by hidden powers that be. It is, as it has always been, a matter of personal choice. What will your choice be?