You may or may not have heard that a famous person has publicly proclaimed that he has “found” Jesus Christ. Many Christians have not accepted this person’s conversion. It’s not as if this is a new thing. Not really. Over the years there have been many conversions that have been questioned. Many of them have been questioned because they were “death-bed” conversions.
It’s not so much that these conversions are questioned, for conversions should be questioned, but it was the attitude that often goes along with it. The assumption that such-and-such a person’s conversion could not possibly be real, or that it is questionable should raise our internal flags. Who are we to determine that?
Let’s take the tale of Zacchaeus. In it we see Zacchaeus promise to return what of his gains were ill-gotten. Jesus says salvation has come. Great! If we were to look at the tale of Zacchaeus with the same amount of skepticism as we look at death-bed or famous people conversions, well, we wouldn’t just “see it” with Zacchaeus. The guy has been a thief (say many today about taxes) and colludes with the government (which people don’t trust). How could such a person’s conversion ever be trusted?
Yet, one of the first responses to questioning Zacchaeus’ conversion is, but the Bible says so! Well, it tells that Jesus said salvation came but were you there to see that Zacchaeus actually did what he told Jesus? Really, what about all those other people that you know about that said it’s all for Jesus, but didn’t change?
Sounds really cynical, doesn’t it? Jesus said salvation came. One would think God would know, as only God knows the heart. Yet, people are as cynical (or even more so) today about conversions. Sadly, we’ve had plenty of examples of false conversions. We have plenty of examples of Christians doing appalling things. Why so cynical? We know humanity for we see it in ourselves.
So, what are we to do? We do have a pretty simple way to evaluation conversions…the fruit. There are the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). There is also the fruit of discipleship. Are there people being discipled by the converted? The fruit of discipleship and the fruit of the spirit, however, can be a long time coming.
1) How would “trust but verify” work in this situation? Does this concept help or hurt?
2) Many of those we would call fathers and mothers of the faith questioned their own salvation. Why do we think we would know somebody else’s conversion?
3) What are the ways that we can encourage recent conversions and help to maintain them?