Dobie Gray is best known for today’s song, Drift Away. Here are some of the lyrics.

Day after day I'm more confused
So I look for the light in the pouring rain
You know that's a game that I hate to lose
I'm feelin' the strain, ain't it a shame

Those lyrics caused me to reflect on the millions of emotionally lonely and hurting people in a country of ridiculous wealth and success. I have a heart for wounded people and especially those wounded by the church and by “bad Christians”. I am constantly getting e-mails and notes from people who have left the church or never joined because of ugly experiences with people who claim the title of Christian. I can’t dispute their claim to a relationship with Jesus. They may well be Christians. But they surely are not acting like Jesus taught His followers to act.

An article about Sam Harris caused me to receive some responses from those who deny or have not accepted faith. One writer who posted said this.

“Came across your article about Sam Harris. I am an atheist and actually appreciate a Christian that would have the restraint to not "wish ill on Sam Harris.". That, to me, is refreshing.”

If you are a Christian reading that comment does that break your heart? It should. How does a very small expression of grace generate this response? That it is refreshing that I am not vengeful toward an author who disagrees with me? That is truly a sad reflection on us as followers of Christ. The post also said that “too many Christians feel it is their duty to tell me, and those like me, how to live. It is in our gov't, in our schools, in our sporting events, in most every aspect of life in America.”

May I gently defend some of my fellow believers. In a sense you are right about Christians feeling it is their “duty” to tell others about Jesus. It is not their duty to tell you how to live. That is where we get it so very wrong. Here is what I believe about expressing my faith to others.

When we love others sacrificially our message becomes inviting…not proselytizing. If you have ever been around a Christian who is truly living these words then you know how attractive that lifestyle can be. Saint Francis of Assisi wonderfully observed that we should “preach the gospel at all times…if necessary, use words.”  I have personally witnessed the power of letting the gospel message flow out of actions and not out of condemning words.

But to those reading this who are of a different faith or no faith at all I must confess my dilemma to you. If I truly believe Christianity to be the truth and if my faith in Christ has genuinely changed my life then how can I not tell you? Why should you be offended if I care enough to reach out gently and in love?

Michael Kinsley wrote a similar sentiment in Time magazine  about the anger that some folks feel toward Christians who seem compelled to share their faith.

 “You may not agree that your soul needs saving, but why is he wrong to try as long as he isn't prying away your soul against your will? As an ethnically Jewish nonbeliever, I find this fuss over conversion utterly baffling...But an insult? In a way, it is insulting to Jews that Fundamentalist Christians don't try harder to convert us. Oh sure, they're friendly enough now. But wait until Judgment Day. Then it will be, `Sorry, we seem to have lost your reservation.' And from this perspective, the Jewish policy of actively discouraging converts to Judaism starts to seem like `theological arrogance' indeed. At the same time, when you object to noncoercive conversion, it starts to look like the opposite of arrogance: theological insecurity. What are you afraid of? The decision will be made by you or by God, and in either case, there is no ground for complaint."

I suspect that technique is too often the rub. I was a victim of over the top zealous religious people as a teenager. I am still a little amazed that I eventually came to faith. I have wrestled with a period of intellectual doubt where I read the works of atheists and skeptics. I came out on the other still a believer that Jesus is who He said He was. The Son of the Living God. I cannot “force” others to reach that same conclusion. If I care about  you I will naturally want to share the most important thing in my life. But I think you have some rights as the hearer of my message. I wrote the following in When Bad Christians Happen to Good Christians.

The Unbelievers Bill of Rights…

    * I have the right to never have faith forced on me.
    * I have the right to never be treated in a condescending manner.
    * I have the right to always hear the truth.
    * I have the right for you to patiently hear my concerns and doubts.
    * I have the right to seek answers to those questions and doubts that you can’t answer.
    * I have the right to be steered to resources for my own study and investigation.
    * I have the right to be loved no matter how I respond to the gospel message.

I hope that I honor you by following the list above. I hope you will understand that my wanting to let you know about the most important thing in my life honors you as well.

Sorry for the detour…back to Dobie Gray.

Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away

I guess all of us are looking for something to free our souls. I have found that in Jesus. Most who write to me disputing my faith demand proof. I cannot prove God in the way that they demand. At the end of the day we can look at the same evidence and reach a different conclusion. Because no matter how much evidence either one of us lines up eventually it will come down to a step of faith. I examined the evidence and decided, yes, there is a possibility that God exists. Then I examined what that means in my life. And I believed that Jesus is the Son of God. The Messiah who came to redeem me and justify my sin before God. Others take the position (by faith) that God does not exist. I believe it is not intellectually honest to unequivocally say there is no God because no one has total knowledge. You can be, in your mind, 99.9% sure but I think you have to allow that little chance that God is possible. Just a final note to anyone who finds this site who believes that believes that all Christians are pushy and intolerant. Some are. But if you want a place of grace filled and honest discussion I hope you will become a regular here. We have much to discuss.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.