Do we Illegitimize?

Back to the word “trivialize.” As I wrote in the last post, I don’t know if it is exactly the right word to use. On a Google search it is defined as “make (something) seem less important, significant, or complex than it really is; synonyms include underplay, downplay, diminish.”

I think evangelical Christians—of which I am one—sometimes trivialize sharing faith, and how we expect others to receive faith. Faith is special, and personal, and complex between a person and God, often requiring time for a person to consider, and to pray. It often requires a respect by the faith-sharer for where the person hearing about faith is coming from—their culture and religion, their family, perhaps their Christian tradition if that’s what they have. I notice that for some faith-sharers, if they don’t hear something like the following words: “God, I am sorry for my sins, I receive your forgiveness, I now live for you”—all at the same setting, they do not consider it legitimate, and they disregard or minimize the person’s experience. In that, we leave out the mystery, the complexity, and the personal aspect of a relationship between gracious, eternal God, and a person specially made in His image.

I know, there is the valid concern that a person might not really understand what being in a relationship with God is about. They might not understand what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 of the Bible). So, we want to hear those right words, or see that affirming nod. But do you really think he/she understands it all based on that gesture? If you are a faith-sharer, do you yourself fully understand all of faith? Much of the joy and wonder that can be expressed as a faith-sharer, upon listening to another person’s experience, is the awesomeness of, and the mysteriousness of God, and the beauty a life-journey with God—always more to discover. This is the place for being discipled, and for discipling.

In Acts 17:16-34, when Paul was in Athens speaking to very religious people who were non-believers, after having a good discussion at a level that was palatable for them, he didn’t seem to squeeze in a sinner’s prayer. In verse 33, it reads, “At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed.” Naturally, Paul would then disciple (teach) them as they followed him.

If “illegitimizing” another’s faith happens, why? What might make it appropriate?