I Scared an Atheist
I recently had a person ask me where I have worked. My work history is kind of an embarrassment for me. It sometimes feels I haven't done anything significant with my life. I joke I've been a kept woman all these years. So I guess in my relaying my spotty work history I try to justify my life. I was a civil engineer for ten years. Then I became a stay-at-home mom for years. Those years were filled with countless volunteer hours at the schools, in my neighborhood association, as a girl scout leader, and at church. Then I had a series of part time jobs: Best Buy, got my real estate license and worked for others part time off and on for years, and at a Christian bookstore. In between part time jobs I kept very busy. Working on my family history, being the care giver for my aunt for eight years, taking classes and developing curriculums for Bible classes and teaching them. Plus I had a women's Bible study group in my home for many years.
I kind of gave the person the overview - engineer, volunteer, part time jobs, teaching Bible classes. When I said "Bible" classes, the person's entire demeanor changed. It was suddenly as if they put up a wall, a defense. The look in their eyes was shock and fear! This person snarked, "Bible classes?" To which I replied I teach an overview and the historical eras of the Bible, how we know our text is reliable, the manuscript evidence, how it is organized, geography - you know things a lot of Christians don't know about. This person abruptly told me they didn't believe in any of that and they were an atheist. The discussion ended. They made it very clear we were done talking.
And I can't stop thinking of their reaction. What did this person think I was going to do or say? Did they think I was going to attack them? Is this the reputation Christians have in the secular world? It was as if this person immediately changed their opinion of me - and not in a good way.
It was very awkward. We joined the rest of the people talking and this guy was very nice to me afterwards. But he had made it abundantly clear that Christianity is a taboo subject with him. I wondered what his life experience had been?
I just can't stop thinking about his weird reaction as soon as I uttered the word "Bible."
Closed-minded: I think non-believers think Christians are close-minded and judgmental. But how close-minded and judgmental is that to assume they know what I believe and what I think?
Christians aren't supposed to be judgmental. If you encounter that you are encountering a Christian who God is working on. You might be surprised to know what I think about some of the hot button subjects. Often the perceptions of Christians are very tainted by what media portrays - you know the crazies on the fringes.
And no matter what my personal beliefs are on a subject I try to do as Jesus commands and love my neighbor. We're to be kind and compassionate. I'll admit we fail at times, but we are redeemed sinners.
Knowing what I believe: I know exactly what I believe when it comes to my faith. This is because I have spent decades reading Scripture and getting all my questions answered. Do I expect you to believe what I do? I don't.
See we are all on a different journey. As soon as you believe in the redeeming work of Jesus - believe you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ - you are saved. This is called justification. Then God starts working on you to become more like Christ. This is called sanctification. We all aren't on board with everything from the moment we are saved. It takes some time to change our world view. And when our world view needs some changing, you can rest assured that God is on it!
And on some things we Christians are going to see them very differently.
The perfect example of this is I was a believer who was pro choice. But over the years God did a number on me and I now am pro life. But I'm not the kind of pro-lifer you may think of. I believe we are going about it the wrong way in putting all of our eggs in one basket which isn't going to really change things. Even if Roe vs. Wade is repealed, we won't stop abortions. We need to give women the support to choose life. We need to change their hearts. We need to help them. And I care about other life too - the immigrant, the refugee, the person of a different faith, the poor, etc. I care about health care and infrastructure and curbing spending and immigration and foreign relation policies. So when it comes to my political vote, pro-life isn't the only issue I vote on. Some Christians think that is just wrong of me.
I believe women can be preachers in a church. I have studied the arguments on both sides. I know many Christians don't believe women should be preachers and they have the right to believe that. Just because we differ in this belief doesn't make me any less a Christian than they are.
Don't assume you know what I think and believe on certain subjects.
Evangelizing: I was recently on the Santa Monica Pier and there was a guy with a microphone screaming about Jesus. Another guy was handing out tracts. Most people walked on by and refused the tracts. The guy wasn't saying anything that isn't true but I wondered if that is really the best way to go about telling others about Jesus. I watched the people including the ones I was with and it seemed to make everyone uncomfortable. Actually I was kind of uncomfortable too.
I had an interaction with a woman who was not a believer on a Bible forum. I was pointing out the statement she made was wrong. She immediately assumed I was trying to convert her. When I said I wasn't trying to convert her she replied, "It's your Christian duty is it not to convert the unbelievers?" I don't think it is my job to jam my beliefs down someone's throat. She obviously wasn't open to anything I had to say. I wrote a blog about it if you are interested. ["Is it My Christian Duty to Convert You?", dated October 31, 2019] Basically I believe it is God who does the heavy lifting. He may use me in some way to reach someone, or as Christians call it 'plant seeds.' I think the person on the other end has to be open to hearing for any effective evangelism to occur.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:15
Notice the "who asks you" in the above verse. I am prepared to give a defense for what I believe, but I'm going to wait until you ask or show some interest. That is my way of witnessing. I will readily admit I often fail at the "with gentleness and reverence" part, however, I am improving.
I am perfectly aware I live in a secular world. I do gauge who I am with and try to be respectful of their beliefs.
That person who told me they are an atheist and dismissed me because I am a Christian - you have nothing to fear from me. I'm not going to bombard you with my beliefs. They are mine. Your beliefs are yours. But I am going to keep you in my prayers that God will bring people and experiences to you that draw you to Him. Smile.
Anyways, if non-believers think Christians are threatening and undesirable to be around; we are going about this thing the entirely wrong way. We obviously have a PR problem. Living life with God is a wonderful thing! It should be attractive to others. They should see our joy, our peace, and our hope. We should be a flavoring influence on society, not terrifying to others.