Let’s remember for a moment back to the time before we passed through death of our old self and into our new life, our new selves. Was your journey toward rebirth simple and straightforward, or was it a prolonged wrestling match? Do you remember it as a single moment in time, as if someone (God) flipped a switch in you, or was it more evolutionary in nature, a gradual process that one day led you to realize that you had become a follower of Christ?
What was the foundation of your hope at that time before the beginning of your new life?
What questions did you have about God and life and Christianity? Where did you find the answers?
I’m going to jump into a set of posts on the topic of apologetics. For anyone new to the faith or unfamiliar with it, this does not mean, as the word seems to imply, that I am apologizing for being a follower of Christ. Quite the opposite, really–it refers to defending or explaining our faith. Not in a mean way, but in a way that meets people where they are to help them understand the truth, if they are earnest seeking to find it.
Perhaps one of the most interesting perspectives on this comes from people who were originally atheists–those who outwardly claim there is no God–but then ended up being believers. Here are a couple of my favorite books from people who fall into this category (note: these are affiliate links):
- Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by C.S. Lewis. The same C.S. Lewis who wrote the “Chronicles of Narnia” and many other books started his faith journey as a vocal atheist who began investigating reasons to support his belief that there is no God. Over time, his readings led him to trade in his atheism for agnosticism, acknowledging “some sort of God as the least objectionable theory.” Next, he evolved into theism, but not yet Christianity–so he believed in God, but not yet Jesus. However, as he continued his investigation, God placed several believers in his life, the ultimate result of which was that Lewis himself became a believer, admitting, “That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Lewis’ conversion story is so compelling because he had spent so many years as a non-believer and was dragged by God, kicking and screaming, into a relationship with Christ.
- Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, by Lee Strobel, who was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Annoyed by his wife’s faith, he set out to apply his investigative journalist skills to disprove the existence of God so she would stop believing this nonsensical mythology. However, the course of his investigation led him somewhere else entirely–he ended up becoming a follower of Christ as a result. In the book’s introduction, he says, “But when I changed those lenses—trading my biases for an attempt at objectivity—I saw the case in a whole new light. Finally I allowed the evidence to lead me to the truth, regardless of whether it fit my original presuppositions.” Although he says this about his journalistic process relative to a criminal case he had investigated previously and not the conclusion he reached, it’s still an important point regarding his findings.
It’s worth noting up front, though, as I try to unpack some of the deepest questions or objections people have about God, Jesus, and the Bible, that at the end of it all, the final step in anyone’s journey into a relationship with our Creator is up to them. We can and should shepherd others along to help them process what they’re experiencing, and pray with/for them while they’re going through it, but ultimately it is up to them to take the leap of faith into the waiting, wide open arms of our Loving Father.
There’s something else to mention here. We must never condemn or judge (or act in any other distasteful way toward) anyone who is not yet a follower of Christ simply because they don’t understand or accept his message. For one thing, God must first soften their heart, making it fertile soil to receive and nourish the seed of his message. In other words, no matter how eloquent and patient and right you are, if God’s not in that effort with you, you will never convince them of anything.
For another thing, we make it harder for people to accept the message that God is a loving, caring Father if we chase after them with torches and pitchforks like an angry mob seeking an evil monster.
Remember grace. Remember that we were once as they are, where nothing about Christianity makes sense (What do you mean by “the blood of the lamb”? That’s disgusting!). Remember that we didn’t get to this point, to this relationship with Jesus, on our own merits. We were able to receive his gift of salvation only because he first softened our hearts, then put someone or something in our path at just the right time so we’d be open to exploring the depths of God.
And remember that Jesus characterized God as a good and patient Father who waits for all of us on his great big front porch, watching for his prodigal sons and daughters to realize the foolishness of their ways and come crawling to him. Remember that he loves them so much he won’t wait for them to reach his porch, but instead leaps off the porch and runs out to welcome them, his arms wide open, in the shape of the cross. (the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32)
That’s our God, and these are the people he wants us to help find their way home.