8/28/16 Matt about 45
I asked a man who stepped out of the tavern for a smoke if he’d be willing to answer an interesting question: “I ask this same question to random people, so I get a wide variety of answers. What do you think happens after this life?” He, a British chap named Matt, identified himself as an atheist. He is the angry type who not only don’t believe in God but who see religious belief as the source for much evil in the world. I asked him why and assured him I would not take offense at his opinion, so he began to let loose with his complaints against Christians, beginning with our lack of concern for the environment and moving on to our support of imperialism and consumerism. He began fairly calmly but, as he focused on the faults of Christians he grew more and more agitated with righteous indignation.
I didn’t get defensive – because many of his complaints were true - but I did make an important observation. “It’s interesting that the teachings of Jesus are the standard for all of your complaints against Christians. In other words, you are saying that the reason you don’t like Christians is that we don’t act Christian enough! I don’t disagree, but what I do wonder, though, is do you have any complaints about Jesus himself? What do you think of him and his teachings?”
Matt admitted that he had no complaints about Jesus, though like so many of us he had a selective memory that only focuses on Jesus’ more popular attributes such as love, peace, and acceptance. He said he saw Jesus as a peace-loving hippie type and the complete opposite of the strict and wrathful God of the Old Testament, so I pointed out an example of how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law rather than did away with it – “The Old Testament teaches that murder is wrong, but Jesus said that even those who hurt people with words are in danger of the fire of hell. So who do you think was more strict? The Jesus of the New Testament was no peace loving hippie – his teachings are as hard as nails”.
Jesus calls for complete devotion and obedience and Matt was correct in his observation that we Christians fall short of His example. Matt was clearly intrigued with this line of thinking, but had to get back to his girlfriend at the bar, so I gave him a copy of the book “More Than a Carpenter” and an invitation to further conversation. A lot of baggage has collected over a 2000 year history in Jesus’ name, by both true and false believers. So what can we do when critics focus on our dirty laundry? No need to get defensive, especially if our time is limited, just point to Jesus!