So, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. For those of you who identify as a Christian you might be alarmed that I would suggest that Christians are not doing everything right. On the other hand, some of you might be reading this blog and are thinking “Yes!, see I told you they were a bunch of hypocrites” And I’m sure you probably have a long list of the wrongs.
I am also convinced that there are still others like me, those who have been a member of the faith community for some time, and that you completely understand just how flawed Christians can be and are not surprised, nor alarmed by my suggestion.
I pray that you all bear with me for a bit and let me explain what I mean so that all those of different views might better understand each other. I really believe that is what is missing at times, honestly. Just a chance for Christians to admit what they get wrong, while helping unbelievers, whether, agnostic, atheist, identifying with another religion, or whatever, see the positives of Christianity.
It is a tall order to be sure. We definitely misunderstand one another. So, it may take a series of blogs to address the issues, but I believe that one of life’s and faith’s challenges ( the focus and purpose of moving4ward) is dealing with differences of worldviews and how to not get it wrong when explaining our Christian worldview. Too often the explanation is muddled by well meaning, yet flawed Christians.
The first thing Christians get wrong is assuming they are in a fight with those who have a different worldview. It is not a war against each other. All mankind are created in the image of God. Christians are not special people in terms of creation. I am not a Calvinist and therefore I do not believe in predestination. All men have equal opportunity to embrace Christianity and receive Christ as Savior. All men can either choose to accept the hope of Gospel or to reject it. All men have freewill. And please note, when I refer to men, I mean mankind, both male and female to be clear- I don’t want any misinterpretations here.
Christians have at sometimes looked at those who do not believe in Christ as savior, as the enemy and are convinced it is an “us” versus “them” mentality. I admit that even I have had this view before in my early walk with Christ. It is something that Christians kind of, or at least should, grow out of over time. But, I really see this as the biggest problem that can cause someone just exploring Christianity to reject it.
As an apologist, I have studied formal arguments, that is rational and logical arguments, from the philosophical point of view and there is a place for these discussions. There are many intelligent Christian apologists who can carry on very sophisticated and academic level discussions. But, most Christians are not in such a setting and often times begin to argue with their neighbors or coworkers, mistakenly believing that they can argue the other person into belief.
This is hardly the case. It is not our business to save anyone through arguing our point. One comes to Christ through hearing the Gospel and responding, but more importantly, this is the work of God through the Holy Spirit. For those who don’t know anything about this, it is like that still small voice that directs your thoughts. When you hear about Jesus and His offer for salvation, the Holy Spirit, that small convincing voice, makes it clear what Jesus is offering. He also convicts us of what we have done wrong, but yet He reminds us of what Jesus has done for us. It might sounds confusing to you, but it really is that simple.
However, I know there are some instances when a well meaning and even thoughtful and caring Christian can come on too strong and argue with those who are just trying to figure out if Christianity is true and real or not. It looks more like coercion than coming alongside someone and helping them understand what Jesus is offering.
The Apostle Peter, writing to a group of Christians in the middle of the first century offers this suggestion; “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1Peter 3:15). It’s a popular verse amongst apologists, but sadly way too often interpreted wrongly. To interpret it correctly, you need to consider the situation at the time it was written, who it was intended for, and who wrote it and what their intention was.
We can’t as Christians just apply a meaning to it, quote it, and use it to proof text our way into making our point. The words reason and defense are used interchangeably, but I prefer the New International Version Bible use of “reason” when understood that Peter was writing this during a time of intense persecution by Rome during either AD 62 or 64. More specifically by Emperor Nero. Nero was crazy and ordered Christians tortured- as human torches along the streets of Rome at night. They were also forced into animals skins and allowed to be mutilated by dogs.
What these early Christians faced is nothing like what Christians in our times, at least in the West, are facing. Their lives could be over at any moment, simply because they were Christians and were Nero’s scapegoat. They were considered strange at first for not believing in Caesar as god. They were even considered immoral, because they refused to worship the Roman gods. But, they did not fight back, or argue, but remained faithful until the end. Refusing to deny their faith, despite the risk they were taking in identifying as a Christian. Peter offered them hope in that difficult time. He didn’t tell them to form a militia, or a political party, but to offer anyone who asked them, “Why do you have this hope in Jesus?” “Why aren’t you crumbling in fear?” And most important of all Peter told them to be gentle and respect the other person.
Not argue a point. Not try to be right all the time. Not tell people they are bad or evil. Not ignore people with a different view. But, in gentleness, respect and love share why you are still a Christian. Why does it matter to you? How did you know it was real? How did you come to follow Jesus? This is what we can and should do.
Offer hospitality to those who don’t yet understand. Hold our tongue instead of arguing. Show them Jesus in our actions and our lives, and when they are ready to hear, share our stories. Share our own doubts and questions too. We probably don’t have all the right words to say, but just say what Jesus has done in our lives. Be real. Be approachable. Be fallible. Admit our shortcomings. Don’t argue for Jesus, but be the Jesus people can get interested in and hopefully, find the answers they are looking for. God Bless- Nancy