There can be a temptation that hangs out in the shadows of well-intentioned efforts to proclaim the Gospel and witness to Jesus – manipulation.
It usually isn’t outright and obvious, but, slowly and surely, a push-and-pull, objectifying mindset can creep in. We can start to just want our efforts to work. We want success and results (as we would understand them). So we start to look at people as binary points of data that we want to flip from 0 to 1. We start to look less at people as someone (a Thou) and more as “someone whom I’m trying to evangelize”. People become projects and we start to view them as problems for which we are looking for solutions. We approach efforts of evangelization just as a technocratic American would approach anything else! This is a temptation to try and play God. Sound familiar?
Maybe the word ‘manipulation’ is too strong, but we can be plagued by a mindset that doesn’t respect the mysterious dialogue between God and a soul and just wants to move someone somewhere. In this mode, we don’t really love people; we are objectifying them (seeing them as a means to an end).
In our efforts to preach the Gospel and witness to Jesus, the possibility is always there to lose sight of Whose mission this actually is and Who is doing the real work. A sign of this is when we lose our ability to be in awe of the conversations we have. They devolve from trying to help someone meet Jesus into trying to convince someone – just trying to find the right collection of words that will “work” – or trying to bring them into our Catholic club (“because, we’re right, you know?”). When we lose a sense of the totally mysterious, intimate, secret interplay between individual persons and the Holy Spirit, we need to be careful.
A great help in trying to combat this temptation is fasting. It’s not obvious how depriving the body of some good pleasure helps pummel our flesh, but it just does. It enables us to be humbler, smaller, and more hopeful before the God Who is – to know that we are creatures and He is the Creator. Fasting as a part of our efforts in evangelization is no different.
Give it a whirl! And please comment below to continue the conversation.