One day a woman across the street from our church called me and asked me to come by and talk to her son about Jesus. I didn’t really know who she was or what exactly I was getting into, but in due time I found myself on her porch. I became increasingly uncomfortable when she pulled her adult son out of the house and expected me to get him saved by the end of our conversation.
And the dynamics of that conversation became even more awkward as we continued to talk. On one side, I had a fierce mother who was parroting all of the cliché Christian statements she had been taught throughout life. On the other side, I had an adult son on the defense who wanted better answers to life’s big questions. And then there was me with answers neither of them were expecting. I figured both would hate me by the end of the conversation.
“Look man, I believe in evolution and science. I don’t believe that God created the world in a few days,” said the son.
“But that’s not what the Bible says!” exclaimed his mom.
“Actually, I don’t have a problem with evolution,” I responded, followed by a strange silence from the other two. “I do believe that God created us, but the Bible writers weren’t scientists and were not interested in writing scientific fact. I believe they were more concerned with us understanding that there is only one God and He made us all, and less concerned with how He went about creating us.”
I waited to see if the mom would call me out as a heretic or let me field more questions. I’m sure she was confused at what she had just heard, but surprisingly, she let me continue.
“Well that’s another thing,” said the son. “Even if there is a God, how do you know that your God is the right one? Why do all the other ones have to be fake?”
“There’s only one God,” replied his mom. “That’s what the Bible says.”
Now I’m really screwed, I thought. How do I have this conversation in front of his mom?
“Uh… well… here’s the thing,” I stammered. “The Bible actually says that the other gods people worship are real entities—but they’re not God. They’re little-g-gods. We Christians believe that our God is the one and only true God, and He made all the little-g-gods. He gave them power to rule in different ways, but they became corrupt and used their power for evil. So we Christians want to invite people to leave all the evil little-g-gods behind and come and follow the one true God.”
Somehow, the mom didn’t kill me as her son looked at me with a strange expression. You could see the defensiveness leaving his body.
“I’ve never met anyone like you before,” he said.
Did that conversation end with a conversion? No, it did not. But it was the start of a conversation. This guy had clearly already been fed cliché answers his whole life and he wasn’t buying into them. If he was going to believe in Christianity, he wanted some real answers. If he was going to pledge his life to some Jesus guy, he wanted a real reason to do so.
How often our faith is lost on others because we don’t know how to answer important questions or because we don’t think there are answers to life’s most important questions. How often our faith is lost on others because we tell them that they have to embrace blind faith and ignore logic. Some seem to advertise Christianity as a religion without answers: “If you want to be a Christian, you just have to have faith and not expect things to make sense. That’s how you get to Heaven.”
But there are good answers. And if we want those good answers, then we need to know more about who God is, how He has set up existence to work, the grand story He is telling, and our part in His story. The knowledge of these things won’t solve all of our theological problems, but life will become a lot more understandable and our big questions will find better answers.
And if we don’t work to understand God’s story, then we as Christians will end up living lives not all that different from those in secular society. Sure, our beliefs might have changed from believing in no gods to believing in the one true God, but we have yet to understand our place in the world and our mission in life if we haven’t come to understand the story we are a part of.
We have to dig deeper. If our faith is nothing more than another Christian’s cliche answers then we, too, will give cliche answers to others. We’ll go on to create unthinking Christians and we’ll be unable to appease an actively thinking world in our evangelism.
God gave us brains for a reason. He gave us His word for a reason. He gave us His Spirit for a reason. He gave us a mission for a reason. He gave us a vision for a reason. He gave us Jesus for a reason. And when we start to understand why, our place in the world and our meaning for existence becomes much clearer.