12/7/16 John about 45
Everyone has a story and I love to hear them as I engage in Gospel conversations. But though everyone is an individual, I do see some similar patterns between people at similar places in their beliefs. A man named John, about 45, gave me an earful when he realized I was willing to listen. He is like many atheists who criticize Christianity because of the real and perceived hypocrisy he sees among Christians, and was very skilled at pointing it out based on the standard of the Bible itself, especially the teachings of Jesus. So how did he get so knowledgeable of the Bible as an atheist?
I asked John about his background. He fit the pattern of many atheists. He grew up in a Christian home and church, and is familiar with the Bible as a result. In his teens he had been very serious about following the teachings of Jesus, but when he compared them with people in his church, he saw nothing but hypocrisy. His critical attitude grew to include various Bible characters, especially from the Old Testament. Then he grew critical of the God of the Bible himself, claiming he wants nothing to do with such a "monster" as he put it. Every step of the way, John fed his own self-righteous pride by being able to claim moral superiority over those he judged, and failing to turn his pointing finger of accusation back on himself in humility.
People like John claim to like Jesus' moral teachings but hate Christianity or organized religion. Instead of trying to follow Him, however, they use selected teachings of Jesus to judge those who do. They are very concerned with being "righteous", but instead of righteousness by faith in Christ, they try to be "good without God". They have become the Pharisees of the secular world, trying to establish their own morality rather than submit to God's.
What can we do? I believe there will always be some who choose this path, but let's be sure to pray for them and do what we can to be show humility and avoid the sin that gives substance to their accusations. "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Let's be people who are above the charge of hypocrisy, and who give others a reason to believe rather than giving them a reason to doubt.