Many of you reported fireworks when you try to discuss—in person or via email—your Christian faith with an unbelieving friend or relative.
Talking religion can be as harrowing as entering the minefield of a political discussion. Often it’s more damaging to relationships, as one’s beliefs are more personal than your political party. Few of us relish conflict but a voice inside tells us to speak up … contend for the faith … refute those insulting lies. Besides, we probably care for the other person or we wouldn’t bother. The exhortation of I Peter 3:15 prompts us to always be ready to give an answer.
Before you faceoff with that firebrand cousin, aunt, or neighbor, examine your own motives. He put you down last time but you’re going to show him you’re smarter than he is.
Nah. One-upmanship is like throwing darts at one another at 10 paces. Even plastic surgery won’t restore the relationship. So, what should your objective be? The same as any encounter: Do unto others … Do what’s best for them.
“Well, he doesn’t listen to me. He better, or he’ll burn in …”
Whoa! What would you have others do for you? Remember? Attitude.
“My cousin always has a bad attitude. Sneers about Christian hypocrites. Why should I put up with that?”
Um, maybe because you have the most wonderful gift possible, and you want to share with him. Look, he must be hurting if he’s always trying to get under your skin. Why don’t you be a friend to him?
“Bob doesn’t want a friend. He just wants to make me look dumb.”
Everybody wants a friend—why not you? He’s not just a mean guy, picking on superstitious Christians. First off, begin to pray for Cousin Bob. Ask God to prepare your heart and his, too. The Lord will help you deal with Bob’s hostility.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
Listen to what Bob’s saying. Without interrupting. Hearing him out says you respect him. Maybe no one else ever listens to Bob. Maybe he’s a lonely guy. Maybe he was humiliated in Sunday school when he was a kid.
“I never thought of that. He’s always trashing church people …”
Let that go. Remember, he doesn’t have the heart of Christ in him. You do. Show it. As I recall, God was patient with you.
“That’s all I have to do?”
Not quite. Build the relationship. To paraphrase: Cousin Bob doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. So listen to what he believes—or why he disrespects the Bible. Those are two different things. When the volume goes down, then you speak. Repeat back what you heard him say. Make sure you’re clear on where he’s coming from. Ask follow-up questions, if necessary.
Finally, ask how he would answer Pilate’s question for all ages: What shall I do with this man Jesus? Stay with that; it makes no difference what happened to the dinosaurs or where Cain got his wife until Cousin Bob deals with the Person of Jesus.
That’s what you prepare for. Did you know there’s more evidence for the resurrection of Christ than whether Julius Caesar ever lived? Yet no one questions if Caesar existed. Research it. You’ll need answers—after he starts asking questions.
“Is that what you did with Boston Paul?”
I tried to. I’m waiting for him to get back; maybe he never will but that’s not my responsibility. Paul is God’s responsibility. Here’s my last message to him …
Paul—This will be relatively brief.
I won’t try to convert you or even change your mind. Frankly, I enjoyed reading your extensive didactic. I appreciate your knowledge of scripture and believe you are an honest seeker of truth. [After reflection, I doubt he’s an honest seeker.] You are where you are and I am where I am. Hopefully, we will both continue to seek the truth (which, BTW, is a good question. To quote Pilate, “What is truth?”).
Something to stick in your wicket: Evolutionists (a key element of atheism) no longer accept invitations to debate creationist scientists—seems they got tired of losing. Check it out. I offered my agnostic co-worker a steak dinner if she could provide evidence of a single transitional form to support evolution. She never collected.
I haven’t read Hitchens’ book but would like to. Have you read any of the popular defense-of-the-faith books? CS Lewis, “Mere Christianity.” Timothy Keller, “The Reason for God.” Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell? [Planting seeds.] You’d probably out-debate me any old day but it would be fun to sit down and talk for a few hours.
My parting suggestion: Just supposing (bear with me) that there is a God—with all that the capital “G” implies—don’t you suppose He could make himself known to you?
I think you’re a good man, Paul. You’ve got a lot to like about you. I hope you’ll be open to the possibility that if God exists, you won’t close your mind to such an outlandish proposition.
… That’s how I left it with Paul. He can email me anytime … when he’s ready.