About 6 months ago my teenage daughter decided she wanted to be a vegan. She had been doing some research and for better health wanted to give the vegan lifestyle a go. For those of you unfamiliar, here’s what that means: A vegetarian does not eat meat, but may still eat the by-products of animals such as eggs, dairy, etc. A vegan (pronounced VEE-gen), however, does not eat animals or any products that come from animals. No dairy (cheese, sour cream, butter), no eggs, etc.
Since she wanted to do this to be healthier I really stressed the importance of eating very healthy. You see, you can be a vegan and be super UN-healthy. Technically, Oreos and Diet Coke are vegan, but you cannot live on them and be healthy all the while calling yourself a “vegan”. So my stipulations were that she could do it as long as she was NOT eating a bunch of processed foods, WAS eating plenty of whole foods, paid attention to protein intake and took some vitamins. “Sure Mom, It’s a deal.” But then again, she’s 13. She cannot drive, does not have much money, cannot take herself shopping and does not have tons of experience in the kitchen. So “It’s a deal” became a little more complicated and to ensure that she was getting all the nutrients she needed and I knew what she was actually eating, I became a vegan too. By default I have been eating vegan for the past 6 months. Now that I’m here, I’m glad. I like it. I feel good. I don’t see myself going back. But the rest of our family thinks we are completely Nutso. They keep asking things like: “WHY? ARE? YOU? DOING? THIS?” and saying things like: “NEVER!”
Recently Hubs and I were out together and stopped at a Longhorn Steakhouse. I ordered steamed veggies, rice pilaf and a sweet potato with cinnamon and no butter. Longhorn STEAKhouse is surprisingly vegan friendly. Hubs ordered chicken smothered in about 2 feet of mozzarella cheese and a baked potato with a pound of sour cream and butter.
You know what we did during that lunch? We ate lunch. We talked and laughed and didn’t spend the hour comparing our food choices. Here’s the deal. I choose to eat vegan because I choose to. He chooses to be a carnivore because he chooses to. Do I want him to eat like me? Yes I do. Do I think it would make his life better? Yes I do. Do I believe it is in his best interest to change his diet? I most certainly do. But He has to choose. Will he ever choose the lifestyle I live? I don’t know.
So, how about I start a “Convert Hubs to Veganism” campaign? Maybe I could stand outside the house with a sign and picket. Oh, I have a better idea…how about I get on Facebook and tell the world how awful he is for not being a vegan? Maybe we could get into a feisty twitter war for the whole world to see with me slamming him for not being a vegan. Wait, I’m on a roll. I know what to do. A boycott. I’m going to boycott him until he sees things my way. THEN he will convert. He will become a vegan. Right?
Of course not! That is absolutely ridiculous. What I do instead is continue to love him as he is. I keep eating healthy in front of him. Sometimes, when we are relaxed and there’s no pressure (not during meal time) I will share with him something I read or heard that day about the power of veggies or something about good health. I do not press him about it. I just share in a non-confrontational way when the opportunity presents itself.
Ok Church – here’s where I’m going with this. Why on God’s green earth do we think we can convert the world to Christianity with angry words, demonstrations of contempt, picket signs, twitter wars or hateful Facebook posts?
Let’s review the basics for the Church:
John 13:35 –
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your LOVE for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Ok, you’re right, this verse is about how believers should love believers. It isn’t about the world. So how does God look at the world?
John 3:16-17 –
For God LOVED the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world NOT to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
You’re right. People do a lot of awful things out in the world. They can be godless and do things that hurt the heart of God. But can I remind you of something else?
Romans 5:6-8 –
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for US sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great LOVE for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were STILL sinners.
Did you catch that? While WE were STILL sinners, God showed us LOVE. I don’t think the world needs a lot more of our sermonizing. I think they need a lot more of our love.
If you really want to please Jesus, then be like Him. What was He like? Well, He went out of his way (woman at the well) to find the sinners so He could sit and talk with them and show them some kindness. He made it a point of hanging out with sinners (tax collectors, thieves and prostitutes) so He could point them to truth. He did not yell at them, scream or get angry. He was patient and gentle. He wept over them.
True, Jesus did use some stern words at times. But do you realize that those words were directed at the religious people…the ones criticising Him for hanging out with the sinners? If we need to pick a side: religious people vs imitator of Jesus, I pray we pick well.
Friends, it is not our job to make people change. It is only our job to present truth in LOVE. Truth telling with love. So many religious people I know tell the truth, but they wrap it up in anger so that nobody can get the package open and see the truth. The the only thing they achieve is to alienate the very people who need truth most. The ones who need to see love the most.
There’s a family I love who has a black sheep. This man has ignored God for years and years. He has filled his life with alcohol, women and gambling. I watched his mother love him anyway. She never turned her back on him. She hoped until the day she died. And he always came to see her. I have watched his siblings love him anyway. They have never turned their backs. They have hoped and prayed and loved without judgment for years. And he knows it. This man is now in his twilight years and he has questions about the future. He wonders if it is too late for him. Guess who he is turning to for answers? Do you suppose it is the ones who have condemned him for years or the ones who have loved him.
When we love, people will hear our truth. That is how we change the world.