If you grew up in church world, then you have been cautioned against “missionary dating,” getting romantically involved with a non-Christian in order to win them to Christ. One of my freshman Sunday school girls startled me one morning by laughing, “You’ve gotta flirt to convert, Angela!”
I sincerely hope she wasn’t serious! She says she wasn’t.
The risks involved in missionary dating should be pretty obvious to Christians and non-Christians alike. When you date someone, you let your guard down to a certain degree so they can get to know you and form an emotional attachment. Missionary dating assumes that this attachment, once formed, will be strong enough to pull the non-Christian into the light and spiritual safety.
The problem is that once you let your guard down, you stand just as great a chance of being pulled into the darkness as your non-Christian love interest does of being pulled into the light, maybe more. You see, although all of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ have His Spirit within us, we will continue to struggle against our pesky sin nature until we get to Heaven. We still make mistakes, big ones sometimes, that slow our progress, stir doubt, heap guilt, and render us generally useless to the Kingdom until we come to terms with God’s grace and mercy all over again.
Non-Christians face no such struggle, having never been filled with the Spirit, and are content to live in darkness (John 3:19-20). Because they aren’t concerned with saving our souls for eternity, they aren’t as willing to bend and give as we are, and it’s fairly easy for someone with their feet firmly planted to pull someone who is bending and stretching off balance.
Followers of Christ, we must be careful! We cannot lose our salvation, but we can definitely lose our salt.
I get an icky feeling when I scroll through social media these days, much as I would feel if I were to see one of my Sunday school girls—or my own daughter—step out with someone who is obviously not pursuing Christ, but, instead, in love with the world. It seems to me that many Christians with good intentions, evangelistic intentions, in their sincere efforts to rescue the perishing as we’ve been commanded to do (2 Corinthians 5:18), have unintentionally let their guard down and are slowly being pulled into the shadows. In trying to relate to those they hope to rescue, they’ve formed an emotional attachment that is skewing their thinking and putting them in harm’s way.
I know how this happens. I’ve been tempted myself. You pray and pray for those whom God lays on your heart and then look for that “divine appointment” that you’ve heard so much about. Impatient, you jump too early instead of waiting on the Lord and letting Him give you the opportunity and the words. Eager, you grab at any and every common thread, venture out on any limb, no matter how shaky, that looks like it might give you a vantage point from which to pull them up and over.
There’s nothing quite like the euphoria that a Christian in rescue mode feels when a non-Christian takes hold, shows an interest, asks questions, or—thrill of all thrills—agrees with you and wants to hear more. It’s powerful. So powerful, in fact, that you’ll do almost anything to keep that connection. When they resist, pull back, or show hesitancy—something that inevitably happens when you speak the Truth to someone who isn’t living by it—instead of recognizing that resistance for the inevitable tension of spiritual battle that it is, you assume that you’ve done something wrong.
You look inward to see where you can bend, stretch, compromise, maybe give up a little protective margin. This often happens on an unconscious level. On a conscious level, you justify by telling yourself that you are simply being all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22).
You float your new stance, and it works. Your intended is comfortable once again. Relieved, you don’t even notice that your position has shifted, that you are a few steps closer to evangelistic impotence. Softening your words, side-stepping big issues, mocking your brothers and sisters for their caution and prudence, you tickle the ears of your intended, caring more about what they think than what God thinks, more about how they feel than preserving unity in the Body (Ephesians 4:3).
They respond, so you keep stepping.
They laugh. They clap. They quote you. They post a link to your blog. They celebrate without knowing why.
I know why.
They’ve won you, beloved, and you have lost your salt.