“I feel a bit sad,” she said. “I’ve been trying to share with Muslim neighbors about my faith. Now they are avoiding talking with me! I’m not sure what to do.” I could hear the frustration and concern in her voice. When you begin to share boldly with those around you, opposition and resistance are sure to come.
How will you respond?
As you become more active in sharing your faith, there will be three main responses from those around you. The first is indifference. Some people will show little interest in your message. Uncomfortable with the bold way you share your love for Jesus, they may distance themselves from their relationship with you. You might notice they even avoid you if you talk about your faith too much. This is especially true in Western contexts, but can also be true in the East.
The second response is opposition. You may experience overt attacks, especially from those of other religious persuasions. One movement leader had people burn down his house when he started reaching out to the Muslims in his area. In other contexts, the opposition could be more subtle. Religious leaders may hear you are actively sharing Christ with the members of their mosque or temple. They will often tell their people to not spend time with you. They fear the influence you may have on those who are part of their community.
There is also a third response. Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear,” (Matt 11:15). For those who God is choosing to follow the Way, they will want to know more. Though they may not be able to express their interest publicly, they will continue to watch your life and listen to your words. At the right moment, now that you have made yourself spiritually obvious, they will reach out to you.
We must expect all three responses. Yet we continue to obediently share the good news with those around us. Those God is choosing as His own, the Persons of Peace will open their hearts to both you and your message.
6 Ways to Handle Indifference and Opposition
1) Pray regularly for those you have been sharing with.
Prayer is a huge key to changing the hearts of those who are both indifferent or outright oppose you. Invest much time in prayer for them. Pray in detail for their family and needs. Love them by interceding for them, even if they have opposed you. In this way, you are loving your enemy and being good to those who persecute you. Act in the opposite spirit. If they are unfriendly, continue to be welcoming.
2) Don’t take their rejection personally.
Jesus taught his disciples to expect rejection. He said, “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you,” I John 3:13 NIV. They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting your message. Don’t assume that God is not working. Often indifference or opposition are signs that conviction is happening in their hearts. Continue to love them and persevere.
Act in the opposite spirit. If they are unfriendly, continue to be welcoming. When they attack you, turn the other cheek and do something to serve them or the community. This is not easy, but it is the Way of Jesus.
3) Continue to demonstrate God’s character in your life-style.
When facing threats, Daniel continued to pray each day in a public way. He showed his devotion to his faith and that he could not be stopped by threats or fear. They will be watching you to see if their indifference or opposition affects you. Let them see love, service, friendliness, and that their actions have not affected your feelings toward them. What a great chance to put God’s unconditional love on display!
Many have come to faith by the testimony of persecuted Christians around them. They watch them suffer opposition but remain firm in their faith and wonder what it is they are willing to die for.
4) Contextualize your message and learn from mistakes.
When facing opposition, it is good to evaluate our evangelism efforts. Check to see if there is anything you could do differently. Perhaps your style of sharing was too “preachy.” Maybe you were not careful about building bridges in their culture. Have you accidentally touched on topics that created unnecessary resistance? Some changes in your approach may be necessary.
Learn from mistakes and keep moving forward. Try a different way of sharing and see if it gets a better response.
5) Watch and wait for a chance to meet a felt need.
Now that you have established yourself as a spiritual person in the community, watch and wait for an opportunity. When you see or hear of a need you can step into, do it. Someone may be having trouble with a rebellious son and be at the end of their ideas of how to solve it. You can step into that place of pain with compassion and love. Sickness, or trouble with nightmares and bad dreams, might provide an opportunity. Be present in their lives, and ready to step into these chances. God will bring them about to show His love and power through you.
6) Keep sharing boldly until you find the Person of Peace.
Rejection and indifference are not easy to bear. It can be deeply discouraging. Don’t give up! God has people prepared for you. You just haven’t found them yet. Keep looking for a Person of Peace by actively sharing your faith with new people. Continue to pray for yourLost List and ask God who you should share something with that week. Try sharing a story from the Bible without telling them that is where it came from. Above all else, don’t stop sharing or let these things shut you down completely.
It is not unusual to face a season of indifference or opposition when you begin to share boldly in your neighborhood and within your oikos. This phase will pass. You can move through it and get to the other side.
You will find interested people, those who will receive the message you have to share. Don’t give up!
Have you experienced indifference or opposition to your bold witness?
Let me know in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.