You and I are inquisitive by nature.
Neither of us were born with the answers; we've had to ask for them. We began asking questions the moment we started becoming self-aware. We both had to learn about the world through experience and from those who raised us. At one point, you and I were both toddlers and 6-year-olds and moody teenagers incessantly asking, "Why?" because we both wanted to know the answers.
You and I are inquisitive by nature. We all are. Ever since man was created, man has asked questions. And no matter what country, culture, era, or family we were born into, we've all wondered the same things: Why is the sky blue? How big is the sun? How did we get here, and where do we go when we die? Whose religion is the right religion? What is the meaning of life?
Is God real?
And no matter who we are, we all want something more than just answers to those questions. Words never seem to be enough. We want evidence. We want confirmation. We want indisputable data. We want our arguments to be refuted and to be astounded out of our skepticism.
We don't just want to be told what's true,
we want to be convinced. We want proof.
And in regards to faith-based debates, irrefutable "proof" is hard to come by. Perhaps even impossible. Of course, as Christians, we can see proof in our own lives and in the ways we've witnessed God at work, but to the disbelieving mind, all of that is just wishful thinking and fictional gibberish. We can't measure how far it is to Heaven, and we can't show our critics a photo of God. We can't open ourselves up to show that our hearts have been transformed. And therefore, in terms of physical evidence and empirical data, we cannot prove it.
The problem with this has implications for you and I, as well. I am a believer. I do have faith. And yet, in the privacy of my room and the secrecy of my heart, I've had all the same doubts as the rest of the world. How do I know I'm right? I've never seen God- how do I know He's there? How can I be sure that the Bible is true?
It's the classic spiral of anxiety and doubt. As disciples of Christ, we've put our faith in things that cannot be seen. And once in a while, in a world where we worship our senses and everything tangible, we start to worry that we're believing a lie.
What do you do when the doubts creep in? Where do you turn when you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? How can you trust a God you're not sure is even real?
I don't know about you, but in those moments, I think about the people in my life who convince me of the Truth. Although I know hundreds of Christians, there are only a couple individuals whose lives truly prove that their faith is well-placed. In fact, I could probably count them all on one hand. Just a select few relatives, leaders, and role models. When I remember their quiet dedication and authentic living, I'm persuaded. I think about the lessons I've learned from them, and the examples they've given me to follow, and it's enough to qualm my fears. Their lives are the reason I come back, time and time again.
I ponder the authenticity in the way they live, and I'm convinced. I regard their walks of faith and their love for God and people, and my heart is steadied. I think to myself, "If this was all a lie, there's no way they would be living like that. If God isn't real, then how can anyone explain their radical life of faith?" I know their smart, so I can't call them crazy. I know their real, so I can't disregard them as two-faced. Because of how they live, their faith has veracity. I trust them because they've proved themselves trustworthy.
In my moments of uncertainty, it's never the scientific arguments or logical reasonings that reassure me in my faith- it's people. Not through words, not through debate, but through simply living it out.
They don't even know they're destroying my doubts. They don't realize that they're convincing me of the reality of the Gospel. They dispute my objections involuntarily, and prove the Bible to me unknowingly. Even so, I hear their pitch for Christianity louder than any argument, and the points they make convict me more than any well-written article.
Their simple and certain walk of faith
is what gives me the faith to keep walking
I don't know how many times I would have given up if these individuals hadn't been in my life. I probably would have left the faith years ago if it hadn't been for their gentle influence. During those nights when I couldn't think of any tangible evidence to secure my belief in the Lord, these people and the testimony of their lives were all I had.
But what about the people who don't have anyone like that? I've lived my life surrounded by fellow believers, yet I can only name a few who exemplify Christ's love in a way that is powerful enough to convince me. So how about those who have nobody? The lost who are surrounded by the lost? Or worse yet, the lost who are surrounded by nobody but unconvincing Christians?
Think about the believers in your life who make you doubt your doubts instead of your faith. Now imagine if you didn't know them. Imagine if the only Christians you knew were hypocritical. Pharisaic. Judgmental. Rude. Two-faced. What if you only ever saw Christians gossiping, lying, and cheating? What if your only experience with church had been one of exclusion, rejection, and condemnation? What then?
What if you knew not of one single Christian who actually lived by what they said they believed? On those nights when you wondered about God and life and the meaning of it all, what evidence would you have in favour of Christianity? None. There would be no reason to turn to God. In fact, there'd be every reason not to. If all you'd ever witnessed from church-goers was bias, prejudice, and legalism, you'd be a fool to believe what they were telling you to believe.
It's hard to swallow, but it's true. And so I ask you: Are you the proof of Christ to the people in your life, or are you the one causing them to doubt? Are you their one reason to keep searching, or are you their last straw as they slam the door on Christianity?
Think about it. There are so many Biblical precedents we verbally cling to, but physically disregard. We put up artsy signs on our living room walls saying, "Do not worry about tomorrow." "The greatest of these is Love." "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." "Consider it pure joy." And simultaneously, we spend our time fighting and name-calling in that very room. Stressing over finances. Lying to each other. Complaining and grumbling. Gossiping, slandering, and mocking.
Christians are taking social media by storm by becoming online activists. And while we feel victorious for commenting snarky remarks, shaming those with differing views, and putting people in their place, what image are we exhibiting? We may feel we are doing the world a favour by trying to convert people over the internet and with a cross as our profile picture, but what picture are we painting of Christianity? Are we the Facebook users they block out of hurt and annoyance? Are we the ones they say just "can't keep their mouths shut?" I hope not.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has this to say on the matter:
Every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous. It is futile, because the swine do not recognize the pearls that are cast before them, and dangerous, because it profanes the word of forgiveness.... Worse still, we shall only meet with the blind rage of hardened and darkened hearts, and that will be useless and harmful. Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want.
Our attempts to witness without the corresponding godly lifestyle are embarrassing. Our efforts to convert the lost souls while still living like them are useless. When our endeavours to minister utilize our words at the expense of our lifestyle, we are endangering the character of the church and the integrity of our own testimony.
Titus 2:7-8 - And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.
1 Peter 2:11-12 - Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when he judges the world.
Matthew 5:13-16 - “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, we are the face of Christianity in our world. And as our faith is a faith in that which is unseen, we are the evidence! We are the tangible proof, the living examples, and the manifestation of the Gospel! We can't show people the cross on which Jesus died, but we can show them the forgiveness and love that He displayed on that cross. We can't show people where Heaven is, but we can show them what it means to live with an eternal perspective, as citizens of God's Kingdom.
We are the light of the world. That's what Jesus said. Not that we should be, not that we could be, but that we already are. At all times, in all places, and to all people, we are painting a picture of the Body of Christ. By the way we live and conduct ourselves, by the way we treat others, we are either giving credit to the cause of Christ, or damaging His reputation. We are His spokesmen. His ambassadors.
So think of the people in your sphere of influence- the believers and the unbelievers, alike. You don't know which of your coworkers is a new Christian. You don't know which of your classmates is weak in their faith. You don't know which of your friends has given up on Jesus altogether. You may be the only other Christian they know, or the only one they get to observe in action.
So be the Christian they just can't explain. Be the believer they just can't refute. Live a life that gives no foothold to their doubts and no opportunity for their mockery.
And in a world filled with "churchy" fraud and religious insincerity,
Be the anomaly.