Why is it that Christians always want to cram their beliefs down other people's throats? Why do they care what others believe? Why can't they just leave everyone alone to believe (or not believe) what they want?
Have you ever asked yourself those questions?
Having grown up in the church and participated in a number of evangelistic mission activities, I've gained much insight into these questions. I've see Christians with the purest of hearts and motives share their faith in Jesus to whomever will listen, and I've seen Christians, perhaps even unaware of their own motives, telling people about Jesus for all the wrong reasons. And honestly, I've probably been on both sides of that coin at different phases of my life.
To an outsider, these reasons may be hard to discern. They just know that someone is infringing on their comfort zone, and they don't necessarily like it. This is especially true in American culture, where we tend to put up walls whenever someone tries to tell us to believe something different than we already think we know. People have lost the ability to have a discussion about different beliefs without feeling threatened, defensive, or distrusting of others' motives. Understanding the reasons, especially the good reasons, why Christians talk about Jesus may help alleviate some of the tension or discomfort of these conversations.
Regardless of their evangelistic methodology (which could be an entirely separate discussion), some Christians tell others about Jesus for the right reasons, while others should probably examine their hearts and intentions on the matter. Of course there are a plethora of other reasons, both good and bad, why someone might share their faith with you, but below are some of the top reasons I have observed.
Three Wrong Reasons
1. They May Be Trying to Earn God's Love or Their Way to Heaven
Some Christians simply don't understand their own faith. The Bible teaches that "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
When Christians (or those who think they are Christians) don't understand that they can't earn their salvation, they try and gain God's love and earn their way to heaven by checking off boxes like going to church, reading the Bible, doing good works, and evangelizing. They fear that if they stop doing these things or don't do enough of these things, that they will lose their salvation or that God won't love them as much. This simply isn't what the Bible teaches. Those who evangelize for this reason are operating out of fear for themselves, and this isn't the right reason to share their faith with others.
2. They Want to Fit in With Their Peers, Church, or Christian Organization
Many churches and organizations strongly encourage evangelism. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, as Jesus also encouraged his followers to tell others about Him, some Christians get wrapped up with fitting in with their friends, or wanting to impress their peers and leaders, instead of sharing their faith from the proper place in their hearts.
Some organizations also keep detailed records of the number of people they have evangelistic conversations with, and of course they want those numbers to be as high as possible. While that's not necessarily a bad thing if the motives are right, I've never been a big fan of this practice. It creates a very sterile and business-like environment, and the mentality becomes far too focused on evangelizing to grow numbers, and not focused enough on the love and care of the people with whom they engage.
3. They Want to Win an Argument and Prove They Are Right
Religious discussions can quickly become heated. Regardless of what your beliefs are, if they are strongly held, emotions and hot-hotheadedness can quickly get in the way of a genuine care for the other person. Christians often forget that they can't argue another person into heaven (a lesson I learned for myself as I grew in my own Christian faith), but they sure do try hard sometimes. When this happens, it's easy for a Christian to lose sight of the fact that God is in control, and they would be better served to pray diligently for their own heart as well as the other person's heart before they engage further in religious discussions or arguments.
Three Good Reasons
Even though some Christians share their faith in Jesus for the wrong reasons, there are many Christians who tell others about Him for some really good reasons!
1. They Are Super Excited About Their New Life in Jesus
This is especially true of new Christians. Have you ever gotten a new car, a new hobby, a cool new friend, or anything else that excites you? Chances are you talk non-stop about it to your friends and family because it's really important to you. The same holds true for someone with a new relationship with Jesus. They've just learned and experienced that their sins have been forgiven, that God loves them, and that they now have eternal life! Who wouldn't want to share that good news with someone else, and tell them how they can also have those things? Even if you're skeptical of Christianity, hopefully you can at least appreciate the heart of a Christian who is excited to share some good news with those they know (or anyone else who will listen!)
2. They Want to Obey God
While it comes quite naturally for some Christians to talk about Jesus, for others it can be very nerve-wracking because they don't know exactly what to say, or how their message will be received. However, regardless of their fears of personal attacks or criticisms, these Christians strive to please God and break out of their comfort zones to tell others about Him. They do this not to obey the leaders of their church, to fit in with friends, out of fear of losing their salvation, or for any other personal gain, but out of a heartfelt conviction that it's something God wants them to do. The Bible says that God loves people and wants to be in a relationship with each of them, and His primary way of reaching people is through the words and actions of those who already know Him. When Christians understand this, they seek to obey God's model for introducing others to Himself.
3. They Love You and Want Good Things for You
The biggest reason why most Christians share their belief in Jesus is because they genuinely care about the eternal well-being of other people. Because of what the Bible teaches, Christians believe that the only way to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and without the forgiveness of God, people will go to hell. Therefore, Christians tell people about Jesus from a place of genuine love for them, not wanting to see them die without a knowledge of the One who can save them. Chances are they have devoted time to praying diligently for the person with whom they are talking.
If a Christian believes another person is going to hell, and they know what it takes for them to go to heaven, it would be very unloving of them not to tell the person that Jesus is the answer! Their consciences won't allow them to keep that knowledge to themselves for the sake of not offending someone. They would rather offend than see the other person suffer for eternity in hell. Even if someone who believes that Christianity is all fairy tales, hopefully they can view this as a respectable reason for a Christian to talk about Jesus.
Making Sense of It All
Christians aren't perfect people and make mistakes like anyone else, and sadly you will find corruption in churches, just like there is corruption among other groups. Motives aren't always cut and dry either. Someone who has some quality motives for talking about Jesus may have those motives tainted by other factors of fear, insecurity, or pride.
But Christians who genuinely love God and love people can't help but talk about Jesus! They strive to please God because of what He has done for them, and they are excited for others to receive the love, forgiveness, and freedom that they have experienced. They know they aren't perfect, but they have known the true forgiveness and grace of God Almighty that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's worth talking about!