“People often have intricate and well-thought-out reasons for not believing, and we treat them with less than respect if we ignore this.”
N.T. Wright (Outreach Magazine, Nov/Dec 2013, p. 100)
I wonder how often Christians are stopped in our evangelical tracks by an unbeliever who presents greater reasoning to reject Jesus than we do to follow him. My guess is that it’s not that often.
It doesn’t happen much because it only takes one time experiencing that for a Christian to shy away from ever going through it again. Instead of challenging someone else with changing their eternal course the conversation turns into us not having the answers.
We don’t walk away questioning our beliefs, but we know that it makes us look pathetic in our seemingly unfounded faith. We don’t want to go through that again, so we fall into the practice of confidently debunking those well-thought-out reasons people have for not believing within the safety of our tightly knit small groups and Sunday School classrooms. We’re never seen as fakes there.
Safe faith is boring because it isn’t real. And In this post-modern age people can see a poser a mile away. So, once again, I revisit the notion that Christianity in the New Testament was far from safe. There was something about the riskiness of their spiritual journey with Jesus that made it real to the Christians and to those who were watching them.
Mr. Wright is correct in his statement above, but we treat ourselves and our Savior with disrespect as well. It means that people who don’t believe in God have thought about their position on him more than we have. I’m not saying that we have to have answers to every question. If we could we wouldn’t need the kind of faith that God wants us to have – the kind that holds true even when there’s something that doesn’t make sense to us yet. But we need to know how we will answer those questions: with humility, sympathy and possibly empathy.
Besides, God can speak to us through whomever he wants. I have a hunch that it was the crowd’s unkind remarks about Jesus meeting with Zacchaeus that helped him to come to his eternal decision (Luke 19:7). After all, they were right and Zach knew it. In Numbers 22, God literally spoke to a prophet through a donkey. If he can speak through a donkey or an unkind crowd, it’s possible that he can help refine your faith through the questions unbelievers have.
Give people who don’t believe in Jesus the same respect he gives them. You’ll be more likely to chat with people about their faith, and they’ll be more willing to listen because they’ll see that your faith is real and that it is growing – because it will be.