You look at me and say, "How can you believe?" But I look at you and say, with equal incredulity, "How can you doubt?" The difference? I know the answer to my question. - Given to me yesterday, Tuesday, 3 August 2010
I grew up in church and I believe wholeheartedly in God, and that Jesus is His Son, and that Jesus died for our sins, and is resurrected and seated at the right hand of His father (see the Apostles Creed for more detail on my beliefs.) Even so, I have always asked questions, and looked for answers. I think some of this is tied up in my God-given personality; I've always enjoyed reading the works of apologists and others who explore the concrete evidence for our faith and the history of it. I've never believed in checking my intellect at the door of the church. That's just not the way God wired me. Besides, I Peter 3:15 (NIV) instructs believers to "...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." Part of giving your answer is having a succinct version of your testimony ready to go. And part of it is knowing why - and what - you believe. And so I read. And I study. And what I read and study strengthens my faith.
But why should I believe in the first place? What led me there? For me, what started as the training that I received as a child became my own belief system as I grew, and as I saw evidence that the world cannot be a random place. I also found a hole in my heart that no one and nothing else could fill.
Still, I have in my circle of friends and family those who just don't get it. They just don't see how anyone with an ounce of intelligence can believe in an invisible God. This fact usually leaves me feeling very defensive, because oftentimes, those who don't believe don't just disbelieve; they ridicule and belittle, and show little respect for someone with different beliefs (not always. But often.) What they don't get is this: it's almost as impossible for me to comprehend their position as it is for them to comprehend mine.
I've been trying to re-establish early morning quiet time. With the altered sleep patterns that come with a newborn, and a tendency toward a lack of self discipline, this isn't easy. But this morning, when I awoke, I reached for the Bible, rather than the laptop. And I promptly read what I thought was today's reading (turned out to be tomorrow's...ha! God can even work through my mistakes!) The New Testament portion of the reading was I Corinthians 1:18-2:5 (NLT), which begins this way: "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God." It goes on to say in verses 20 and 21: "So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe."
The point that I'm trying to make is two-fold. First, those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior don't just not understand; they are incapable of understanding. God must call, God must do the work and woo someone for them to even begin to get it. This is, of course, where our prayers enter. So be encouraged if you feel like someone doesn't get it and makes fun! They don't scoff out of personal derision; they scoff because they are blind to the truth you see! And be encouraged if they display any interest whatsoever in the kingdom, even if they haven't had a full salvation experience. Because God had to actively call them, He must be actively working with them for them to even have an inkling of their need!
Secondly, as a believer, whose wisdom do you seek and follow? I'm pretty literal when it comes to reading verses 20 and 21, and I do not seek counsel from those who are not believers about life issues. Would I ask a Buddhist about gardening if he were an expert? Sure. Would an orthopaedist who is an atheist do a good job of setting my broken wrist? Probably...providing that she is also a good doctor. But when it comes to advice about marriage, or child rearing or finances or how to conduct myself in a sticky situation, or any of the other dozens of curve balls we're thrown daily, I turn to those who believe on God, because, as verse 30 in the same passage says: "...For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself." And so, just as we cannot properly love without God, because He didn't just invent it; He is it...so it is with wisdom. Outside of Him, apart from Him, it doesn't exist. It is foolishness. It is useless nonsense.
I hope this frees you from a desire to argue your "point of view." I hope it frees you from defensiveness, like it did me. Sure, give your answer. But whatever time you would be tempted to "argue for Jesus" would be better spent praying for your opponent or foe.