It’s Friday night. I’m in the pub with a mixture of old and new friends when the table find out I work for the Church and I believe in Jesus.
“How can you actually believe that stuff?” comes the question from the new acquaintance across the table. Ten or so people turn toward me and I search for a profound response, the kind of words that Jesus would have come out with… but I struggle, I stumble and the words don’t come out properly.
That situation got me thinking, why is it that we are always on the defensive? People always ask us to give a reason for the faith that we have. It’s important that we have wrestled with why we believe what we believe but sometimes I think we should be more pro-active, gently challenging others.
At its core, faith is about three things. Faith is an explanation. It is our framework for how we make sense of the world. Is our existence meaningless or is there some purpose behind why we are here? Second, faith is a confidence that our explanation of how the world works is correct and makes sense. Third, faith is action. The way we live our lives reflects the explanation that we hold to be true.
The truth is we all have faith. We all have an explanation that we are confident in, which helps us make daily decisions.
As Christians, our explanation of the world is that there is a loving God who wants us to be in relationship with Him. Our confidence comes through our experience of God, through the evidence of the beauty and the complexity of creation; through the revelation of Jesus in the Bible and the Church. Our lives reflect this explanation in the way we live; the prayers we pray and the way we love others.
People are often very ready to challenge our Christian faith. I am often accused of having a naïve, or worse still a manipulative view of life. But perhaps it’s time to challenge people on their faith or explanation of how the world works.
For example, when someone explains they are an atheist, we could respond: “Wow – that’s incredible! I would love to know how you have such confidence that there is no God.” Or when someone says they could never believe in Jesus, we could ask them to explain their reasoning. I wonder if in our desire to be loving and inclusive we fail to engage and inspire others to look beyond the limitations of their own faith.
We need to allow God to use us in helping others think through whether their logic really is as foolproof as they think it is. For example, when someone explains that their faith is in science and nothing else, you could ask them if they have ever had any spiritual experiences or whether love ever seems to be more than just a chemical reaction in the brain?
Next time I’m sat around in a crowded pub on a Friday night and that kind if question is posed, I’m going to retort with: “How can you not believe in Jesus?” It’s time to be pro-active.
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