I am a Christian. As a Christian- particularly one of the Evangelical bent- mine is a tradition that has a reputation for abrasive condemnations of those who aren’t Christians: screaming brimstone and judgment from street corners, condemning alternate viewpoints and pushing legislation in an attempt to perpetuate our own beliefs. We’ve not exactly painted ourselves in a good light.
But the flag under which Christians are called to die isn’t one of religious propaganda, nor is the heart of our gospel a ‘turn or burn’ story. That said, there are things I- as a Christian- hope, want, pray, desire and truly want all non-Christians to know.
Here’s a few of them:
1) You are a person, not a project.
When I look at you I don’t see a box to be checked, a sinner to be saved, a victory to be won or a task to be accomplished. I see a person: a person with insights, thoughts, hopes, dreams, pains, and desires; I see a human-being, a human-being with a human story.
And sharing stories is a nebulous task. It requires time, trust, coffee, late nights, long emails, tears, laughter, life together. It takes relationship.
Projects require work, but relationships flow from love. If I see you as a hash mark on the inside of my prayer closet, then I don’t see you as (I believe) God sees you. I’ve dehumanized you; I’ve reduced you to a one-dimensional reality that I can print neatly on my Christian resume. That’s not what I’m trying to do. There’s no agenda behind my interactions with you. I’m not saying my intentions are always pure.
I’m saying that- at the end of the day- I’ve nothing to gain from you but what I hope to give.
And that’s love.
2) I don’t think you’re stupid.
While I may not believe what you believe- and I certainly haven’t the experiences nor the frame of mind with which to totally understand or relate to your views- I don’t think they’re idiotic or absurd. I don’t think you’re stupid.
Stanley Hauerwas, a Christian ethicist and theologian, once joked that he wasn’t smart enough to be an atheist. And I think there’s truth to that. Likewise, I have not the patience to be Buddhist, the courage to be agnostic, or the devotion to be Islamic. I am a Christian because I pass Jesus’ entrance exam: I come broken, sick, looking, hungry, sinning, repenting, and believing by grace. I’m incapable of any other qualifications; so I certainly don’t think you’re stupid for meeting them.
3) I think you’re wrong about God. But I might be wrong.
There simply is not empirical evidence to prove or disprove God. There exists no factual proof that leads us on an undeniable path to one religion over another. Thousands of years of philosophical and theological thought fall on either side of the Chrtistian viewpoint. It’d be either a lie or “I know without a doubt that God- as revealed in Jesus Christ- exists.” Indeed, for the Christian I would say this is impossible.
The Christian believes on the basis of faith; in faith I believe God to be real and revealed in the person of Christ. But I am gambling my chips and I’ve yet to see the final cards overturned. “Blessed are those,” says the Bible, “who have not seen and yet believe.”
Part of faith is the humble acknowledgement that it I could be wrong.
4) You are not my enemy.
I am not against you but for you. Too often, we Christians draw lines and ready ourselves for battle. Don’t get me wrong, as a believer in the one, true, God of love and peace, I also believe that there is an enemy- an anti-God, or Satan, if you will. I believe evil exists. And I do believe it has influence over people.
But I don’t think you’re hell’s minion just because you follow Richard Dawkins, wear a turban, believe in reincarnation or refuse to read the Bible.
Across the ages, wars have been fought over religion; and too many of these have been fought in the name of Christ. I’ve no desire to wage another one- and the Jesus I follow never asked me too.
What I want to do is invite you to a feast. I want to open the doors and invite you in to life with a God who went out into his creation to reveal himself to us. I want to dance with you in the tension of doubt and faith. I want to hear your story and see it as part of the story. We may not believe the same thing, but what if we’re both asking the same questions? Might that be a possibility?
We’re not that different, you and I. There’s nothing special about me that’s not matched by something beautiful in you. And we may have disagreements; but I hope that doesn’t mean we can’t talk.
Because there’s a conversation to be had. A conversation between creation and created, a conversation between you and me, us and them, they and we, God and us. And, at the end of the day- no matter what you believe, my desire is for us to enter the conversation together.