One of my children's favorite movies is the recent Snow White movie Mirror, Mirror. In this particular telling of the classic fairy-tale, the Evil Queen decides that she wants to marry the handsome prince and she gives him a love potion in order to bring it about. If you have seen trailers for the movie, you already know that she doesn't just give him a love potion, but accidentally gives him a puppy love potion and he begins barking and scratching and fetching and following her around like a little lost puppy dog. Of course, as in all such fairy-tales, the spell is broken and the prince's true affections for Snow White win out. (I hope I didn't just ruin the movie for anyone, but that is what happens in fairy-tales.)
While the Evil Queen's plan is both funny and sad, her attempt to force the prince to love her is often very similar to how we can approach witnessing to people. Often we want people to be saved so badly, we are so desperate for someone to give their life to Jesus, that we poke and prod and annoy and interfere and bug people as if we can force them to love Jesus. I once knew a young man who was pondering giving his life to Jesus and we had a number of conversations about what Heaven would be like and what it would mean for Jesus to be Lord in one's life. We had some very positive discussions where he seemed to be moving closer and closer to following Christ. But there was another lady in this young man's life who just kept pushing him and forcing the issue as if she could make him love Jesus by the sheer force of her will. Inevitably, after every conversation that this woman forced on him, he was more resistant to the idea of following Christ.
In Mark 4, Jesus told a very short parable about the kingdom of God. He said, "The kingdom of God is like this. A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises--night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows--he doesn't know how. The soil produces a crop by itself--first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head. But as soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29, HCSB). At this point, Jesus is in a set of parables where the seed being sown is the Word of God. The seed is sown and, in this case, Jesus points out that it grows all by itself. We can't get down into the soil of someone's life and force the seed to grow, it just does -- all by itself.
We are reminded all throughout scripture about the power of the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (NIV). Isaiah 55:11 reminds us "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (NIV). God's Word is powerful enough on its own to work and poke and prod people from the inside. Our responsibility is to share God's Word with people, to water that seed as it works in them and produces questions and conflicts that God has set us in place to help with. But we must guard against those instincts and tendencies that make us want to force people to love Jesus. We can't ever force someone to believe or to surrender to God's love. Love and belief simply don't work that way. But the Word of God is living and active and powerful enough to pull the strings of people's hearts all by itself.
God has called us to sow the seed of his word, to water it and to harvest when the time comes. But God's Word grows in a person's heart all by itself. Let's not harm the seed in someone's life by trying to force it to grow.