“That’s why I think I admire most those individuals who have had the boldness and courage to convert to Christianity as adults and/or radically revise their understanding of Christianity after years in the faith. Because of the baggage they carry with them and the radical revision of established life and relationships these changes require, theirs is many times the hardest decision of all.”
A friend on Facebook offered some thoughtful rejoinder to my statement, noting that this kind of stance runs the risk of elevating the “extreme” conversion over those who remain obedient their entire lives. Implying, somehow, that those who face great difficulties in converting may somehow be better than us “normal” Christians.
I realized that I was running a risk by writing what I did. While I by no means feel that an adult conversion or drastic life change makes anyone a super-believer, I must reiterate that I really do admire their courage. Consider the contrast: a eleven-year old homeschooled student deciding to accept what his Christian parents have shared with him about God’s love OR a 40-year old Muslim woman who decides that the claims of Christ mean that she must reject her culture, upbringing, religious traditions and potentially face the wrath of her family, government, and society. For her, conversion may lead to death.
Theologically, both conversions are legitimate, honest, and infused with God’s grace…but the decisions made by the latter convert are much more fraught with peril. Her decisions are harder to make because of what they will cost her. The courage she has to choose anyway–despite the price–is why I admire her so much. It is just a reality, I think.
I suppose I’ve been considering such matters because of class I’m teaching this month entitled “Modern World Christianity.” Global encounters of different faiths and the growth of Christianity are all a part of the course. One of the books we are reading is entitled: Following Jesus in the Hindu Context: The Intriguing Implications of N.V. Tilak’s Life and Thought. As an upper caste (Brahmin) Hindu believer in India in the late 1800s, Tilak had no necessary–or easy–reasons to choose to follow the Christian faith. As a matter of fact, his decision to follow Christ created no small amount of problems for his marriage and place in society.
Tilak was not a perfect man, and the full effects of his conversion had to work themselves over a number of years. Yet as they did he was able to speak powerfully to his countrymen in their own cultural terms about his newfound faith in the love of God in Christ.
Far from implying that Tilak is a super-Christian, ought we not ask ourselves if his sacrifices are perhaps not the more “normal” way? If so, our own lack of spiritual radicality (however you might like to quantify that) in the here and now might mark us as failing to meet even baseline for a Lord who calls us to “take up our cross” and follow Him. Food for thought, at least.