Have you ever heard these words while performing evangelism?
- "Why do you have to push your religion on me? Just leave me alone!"
- "Why do you have to act like you're always right?"
Modern America tends not to favor those who speak their mind boldly about religion (as well as other topics, at times, but religion is the big one). You can't share your faith, because it bothers people who just want to be left alone.
I recently noted that a certain Jewish anti-missionary site described the work of a "counter-missionary" as that of one who "actively opposes the ideas and actions of those who seek to convert others to their own faith" and pursues "facilitation of the universally-accepted adage 'Live and let live.'"
As I noted in reply, "Live and let live" was not in the OT: Just ask the Canaanites, the Jews when Jerusalem fell to Babylon and later to Rome, Nineveh, Edom, and all the other nations judged by God in the OT. God isn't into "live and let live" -- and nor was anyone in Bible times. The truth has not changed; rather, we have fallen victim to a victim culture.
Modern culture demands that what a friend of mine has called a "ten ton bridge" be built before you can relate to a person and witness of your faith, or talk about "sensitive" and "personal" subjects like religion. Nor is it right to confidently assert that your religion has all the goods.
Modern culture, though, is at odds with the Biblical model on this score. Pilch and Malina's Handbook of Biblical Social Values notes that in the ancient world, the qualities of boldness, openness, frankness, and self-confidence were highly valued, and though often a privilege limited to the upper class, was approached as a "golden mean" that kept one from on the one hand "being impudent before equals" and on the other hand "fawning before superiors."
Such assertiveness was a means of preserving personal honor. But the value of assertiveness was the willingness of apostolic evangelists to boldly preach publicly.
Today of course the "street preacher" or the person who is seen holding up a sign that says REPENT -- JESUS IS COMING is regarded as a marginal lunatic. They are not helped by the fact that many of them do teach odd doctrines with no respect for the Bible's social context. However, in terms of what the people of the Bible times believed, they are acting out closer to the paradigm than the person who tiptoes around not being a witness for Christ so as not to "offend" people.
Does this mean witnessing in the street with reckless abandon? Not necessarily -- we must also be all things to all men, and if a ten-ton bridge is demanded, then that's what we may have to build.
But it is worth noting that what we have is a case of a society that has tried to insulate itself against the witness of the Gospel or any other controversial idea. Those who opt for "privacy" and "leave me alone" have shown that they have made a decision to make no decision, and made the assumption that there is nothing more they need to hear -- which will be just as condemning as if they had simply turned down the Gospel flat.