I remember being asked years ago, “Should we evangelize people who are already happy where they’re at?” If someone isn’t really struggling, hasn’t been suffering, doesn’t know grief, and seems to generally not fall into St. Paul’s category from Romans 7 of those who don’t do what they want to do and do do what they don’t want—do we still need to evangelize them? If they’re pretty satisfied by temperament, what do we actually have to share? What I felt but couldn’t articulate those years ago, I would like to articulate now.
Yes. Yes we should evangelize. And I’ll tell you some reasons why.
Maybe you can relate to this reason. I love my wife, and think very highly of her. When I come across two different kinds of women, I have a similar response: they should really meet my wife! When the woman is clearly in some turmoil, and I’m clearly not the person to help her address it, I know my wife can and would do a tremendous job if she had the chance to meet her. But for the women who seem full of life and are doing quite well, I still want them to meet my wife, because I would love for them to become friends.
I think if I lived in a kingdom with a just and holy king, I would have a similar feeling on meeting two different kinds of peasants from other kingdoms. If the peasant was experiencing injustice and strife, I would wish that my king would take them as a citizen and judge wisely in their case. But if the peasant were doing quite well in another kingdom, I could just imagine how much better they could do in a more perfect kingdom, and how much more they would love to live under a more righteous ruler. Yet somehow, when I think of Jesus, I start thinking that it’s only the first kind of people who would benefit from knowing Him. How senseless that is! Our Creator and Lord, seen to only have appeal to those in desperate straits? What does that say about how I’m living now? Do I really appreciate Him as Lord, King, Savior, and Bridegroom in a way that continues to be relevant and life-changing? If I do, why not tell those who are doing quite well for themselves that there’s someone they’d love to meet, and be confident that they’d truly enjoy and be enriched by the company of the God Who loved them into existence?
Another reason that we should evangelize happy people is that happiness doesn’t last. A great sign of this is in the story of Joseph in Genesis. The Pharaoh was about to have seven years of plenty, such that they had never seen, but then he was to endure seven years of famine. Only by trusting God, and entrusting his kingdom to Joseph, was Pharaoh able to weather the hardship that was to follow. Storing up graces and learning to entrust while things are going well is a really sound spiritual discipline. Jesus said that when the storms came, those who built their lives on His words would be able to weather it, while those who heard and did not build on His words would perish. Think of all those who don’t even have the opportunity to choose to build on His words, because we haven’t shared His words with them yet. The storms will come. Suffering, loss, famine, disease, and death are unavoidable features of our limited and fallen
lives. By not sharing Who Jesus is and why He is worth our trust, we strip them of their ability to prepare for the vicissitudes of life.
A third reason to share is that I think our faith is really awesome, and if a friend is already happy, they may be in a good position to listen to my thoughts. Just because a friend seems to be doing pretty well doesn’t mean that I don’t share with them incredible things that enliven my soul and make my mind whirl. In fact, when they’re doing well is when I usually talk to them about the things that are on my mind, because they’re in a better position to listen when they’re not in distress. And if my faith is on my mind, you better believe I’ll talk about it with whoever has a listening ear.
Now, I should address a common complaint: how can we evangelize when things seem so dire in our Church? Priest shortages, abuse crises, liturgical conflict, faith erosion, apathy —how can we welcome people into that? The same way we welcome people into our homes when things are a mess. There are four things to remember when our house is a mess and we want to have people over: 1) we clean up more when people come over than we do for just ourselves; 2) it’s not our perfection that gives us the opportunity to invite people over, so our imperfection shouldn’t take away that opportunity; 3) we’re not the only ones with a mess, and we might just show our mess to someone new who
can help us with it (that’s how our bathrooms got cleaned…); and 4) Satan would be delighted if we stay isolated thinking that our mess keeps us from other people.
And the last reason is really the best. Jesus tells us to tell others about Him, to come and see His life, and to invite them to follow Him. He doesn’t say what will happen—whether people will convert on the spot, or persecute us, or be indifferent—but he does say to do it. And He asks us to trust that He knows best about how
things will turn out. So, should we tell happy people the good news about Jesus? Absolutely. And I’ll spill a little secret: we’ll be happier if we do. Joy shared is joy multiplied.