Everyone gets offended. Whether by a friend or stranger, co-worker or family member, it matters not. As I’ve grown older, I rarely get offended anymore. The difference is in the way I receive what people say. In the past, I cared too much about others’ words, but now I care in a different, empathetic way; I care more about the position of a person’s heart than of the offense they’re trying to cause me.
Interestingly, I felt somewhat offended recently; indirectly, more or less. Not so much me, personally, but my beliefs. What stood out to me was why I felt frustrated because the people speaking were speaking from a place of misunderstanding. Let me explain.
SCIENCE, GOD, & THE BIBLE
Many people cling to this world with all their might and power because they choose to believe there is nothing to look forward to when they die. For them, the last breath of this life is the last moment of their existence anywhere. Not only is that an incredibly unfulfilling perspective to have, it is enormously miscalculated. An innumerable amount of atheists believe science to be the contemporary God, and they are willing to go to any lengths to use scientific discovery as empirical evidence that the Biblical God doesn’t exist. However, science itself aids in the providence of faith. As Leslie Wickman writes in her book, “God of the Big Bang: How Modern Science Affirms the Creator,” God can be found in science; not so much in that science precedes God, but we are finally discovering phenomenal truths about the universe, aiding in the explanation that God and science are not dichotomously at war in the modern argument of God and the Bible, but how they actually conflate through the evidence of each other—God used science to bring about existence, and we have used science to discover that the unexplainable aspects of creation were not formed by evolution, but by the miraculous power of God.
FEAR OF HELL
What saddens is me how many unbelievers claim not to believe in God, but choose not even to explore faith in Him. This tells me they might be afraid to be wrong. I was once afraid to be wrong. As an atheist for most of my life, there were several times in my teens when I wanted to commit suicide, and one of the only reasons I couldn’t go through with it was because I was afraid Hell really did exist and I would burn for eternity. Perhaps some of the unbelievers of today carry this same fear. And, obviously, I empathize. However, to stop there is ridiculous. How can we be afraid of what we don’t know, and then not try to figure it out?
That’s what happened to me: I tried to figure it out. And what I figured out was that no other explanation besides Jesus as Lord makes any sense.
MISUNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE AND HUMOR
For the spiritual antagonists out there, Jesus doesn’t make any sense, He merely instigates useful material for cruel religious jokes. Let me tell you, I don’t laugh at any of them—not because I don’t have a sense of humor, but because the jokes are unfounded, and therefore undermined by reality. To help make my point a bit clearer, the reason non-spiritual jokes we hear in comedies and raunchy TV shows make sense is because they’re founded in empiricism, relatability, and realism. The jokes about Jesus, on the other hand, are founded on assumptions; those assumptions are made by people who misunderstand the Bible, misconstrue its message, get frustrated by their misunderstanding, and then—instead of seeking a knowledgeable, willing believer to explain the message of the Bible in a clearer way—they transfer their misunderstandings into dark humor. Again, that isn’t realistic or empirical, it’s just presumptuous and immature. I don’t make fun of unbelievers’ lack of faith; why do they make fun of a believer’s choice to have faith?
MISUSING JESUS’S NAME
I understand the perspective unbelievers have about Jesus, and the flippancy in which they use His name in vain; I used to use His name in vain, too: before I cared about who Jesus really was (and is), I didn’t care about His name. But as I learned more about Him— why He came, what He offered, how He lived, died, rose, and what His offer means for us even today—His name took on an entirely newfound reason. I don’t use Jesus’ name in vain anymore because I believe His name holds power; frankly, I care about Him in a way that you would care about family. His name to me now is meaningful, sentimental, personal, familial, and deified. I empathize with those who don’t see Jesus this way– because I once saw God and Jesus the way they do. So, why then, if we don’t believe in Him, would we use His name at all? Why, in fact, would we hold such strong negative feelings against Him, if we don’t believe in Him?
PERSPECTIVES OF AN UNBELIEVER
The way I understand it, both from my past experiences as an atheist as well as how I’ve heard it spoken from those who mock Jesus/religion/faith is this: An unbeliever sees a believer and thinks they’re weak to have faith in something they, as unbelievers, consider intangible and fallacious; however, whereas unbelievers see a believers’ faith as weak, naive, or crazy, believers see an unbeliever’s lack of faith as revealing of their emptiness: Desperation for worldly indulgences to fill a void left unfilled by their unfaith. Furthermore, when an unbeliever refuses to believe in God but proceeds to complain that there’s nothing to believe in, their obstinacy comes across short-sighted, stubborn, and uneducated–or, perhaps more accurately–misinformed.
One of the thoughts that runs through my head during the back-and-forth spiritual bantering of an unbeliever is, “Do you not want these stories to be true?” Sometimes I ponder the detriments of disbelief, and one of the most rueful reactions I feel in response to others who don’t see Jesus the way I do now is, despite what they may hear, they don’t want to believe it. But, do they just not want to believe the parts that sounds incredulous—like the miraculous wonders Jesus performed—or do they choose not to believe in His story because of what it might mean for them as individuals; namely, that they have sin?
MISCONCEIVED NOTIONS OF FAITH
I remember as an atheist, I was afraid of being wrong. Meanwhile, I also carried the distortion that I would have to please God–if there was one–in order to receive anything from Him. But, see—that’s all Biblically incorrect! No one has to please God; no one has to believe in His Truth in order to make it true. It just requires faith… and that’s where I get confused when I ask unbelievers about their disbelief. “Do you want Jesus to be the Son of God? Do you want to be loved by an unconditional Father who just wants to spoil you crazy with His blessings? Don’t you want to follow a lifestyle of altruism based on something real and historically empirical as the love of Christ, instead of trying get what you can while you can, thinking this is it?”
What kind of life can we really live in the moment and think, “I’m going to die one day and none of this will even matter.” That sounds like such a waste of life. And while some would say “Then why live?”, I will argue back: “Why not Jesus?” What did Jesus not do for us that makes us think He doesn’t care? What did God do to make us think He doesn’t exist? Would we rather believe there is no God, no Jesus, no Bible, and no Heaven?
JESUS AND RELIGION
Religion is not what Jesus taught, readers—Jesus doesn’t talk about religion; He talks about God the Father, about relationship, about love, giving, and about being blessed by God. He doesn’t ever talk about religious anything. People made that up and that’s why religious babble gets people so exasperated and perplexed. Jesus only cares about relationship—not rules or rituals. He never commanded us to follow rituals. He only showed us ways to be more loving: He washed His disciples feet; He blessed children, He healed lepers; He answered questions with wisdom and love, rather than cynicism and judgment. He did not teach religion, readers. That’s just plain incorrect. If that’s what’s set you off, then please reconsider what you think of as “Jesus, the religion,” and try to think of it as “Jesus, my best friend and Lord.” No rituals, no rules—just the call to love.
God has never stopped loving us, which can be our biggest inspiration to love others. Do you want this to be the Truth of your life, or would you rather join in on the jokes, mockery, and criticism based on misconstrued notions of the Bible? Would you rather judge the Bible, or come to understand what confuses you?
LOVED BY CHRIST
I want to leave you with this, readers: Jesus loves you. If you won’t accept these words, my prayer is that your hearts will soon be softened by the Lord, opened to Him who died and rose again, for those would believe in Him. He gained nothing from doing that except knowing He would be giving us the greatest gift our entire existence would ever receive. Generosity and love are His nature. The most important question right now is, if you don’t understand the story of Jesus, do you want to?
My prayer for you is that you will find the genuine curiosity to come to know Jesus, to respect His name, to love the man, to glorify the God He is and was, and to allow Him to renew your spirit. There’s no better life than to have Jesus at the center. Ever since I found myself letting Him into mine, I keep begging Him to come closer. I can’t be without Jesus. My heart just can’t take this life without Him.
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