"The man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument." - Ryan Rush Wednesday night, I attended a round table discussion between 3 local pastors and 3 atheists in town for the American Atheist national conference. It was fascinating to listen, as both sides talked about their beliefs, perceptions and misconceptions. At the end of the night, the Christians asked the atheists if there was anything that would cause them to believe. One responded with one word, a "miracle". Huh? He went on to say if he saw a miracle, he would believe. The other two on the panel agreed without hesitation. Yep, a miracle.
Wow! Some of the leading spokespeople for atheism, at least for this conference, would be willing and would believe in Christ if they saw Him moving. Ryan Rush's comment, which was the line of the night for me, implies when we experience Jesus, we believe in the face of any argument. Ryan's statement paraphrases one of my favorite verses:
"May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (Ephesians 3:19 NLT)
Their response fascinated me for a few reasons: 1) Jesus performed miracles...remember the virgin birth, empty tomb, fishes and loaves, water to wine, blind seeing, lame walking and dead raised to life to name a few. It's like God knew we needed to see the supernatural to believe, so He showed us. 2) I got the sense as these atheists spoke and offered miraculous things God could do like cure cancer and feed hungry kids around the globe that what they really wanted to see Jesus do a miracle for them...something personal. 3) I see miracles. My friend Cyrus was healed of a tumor on his pancreas, baffling his physician. I see events and people brought together in miraculous ways, all the time. Creation screams miracle after miracle. I hear crazy stories of people being brought back to life in third world countries by people praying over them.
The miraculous happens all the time; sometimes we see and sometimes we miss. I left the Wednesday night discussion less frustrated by the atheists' perspective, but more convicted by why they haven't seen Jesus through His Church. God in all His wisdom chose to show the world His love for them through Jesus and then to share that message with the world through Jesus' small band of followers...through His church. When others don't see Him, I wonder, why aren't they seeing Him through the Church?
I'm not looking to slam the American Church, because I think in so many beautiful ways we're effectively sharing the love of Christ. People see us respond to needs, love each other and love others in a way that opens their eyes to Jesus. However, if we're honest we'll admit we're also seen boycotting Starbucks, boycotting Home Depot, supporting Hobby Lobby, supporting Chick-Fil-A, posting all about our rights, fighting for those rights and saving our country. What about the eternal destination of the souls we're battling in public forums? Our Savior gave up everything, all His rights and privileges for those very people!
"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross."(Philippians 2:6-8 NLT)
I'm not so sure Jesus cares all that much about us preserving our way of life in our temporary home. He gave us a commission that has nothing to do with setting up a safe place to live and fighting to preserve it. We might have too much invested in the wrong battle.
My prayer is for The Church to be more consumed with sharing the love of Christ than being caught up defending our rights. I pray following Jesus Christ looks more like giving up our rights, loving and serving those with opposing views and lifestyles. If we give up our lives, rights and privileges, we might see more miracles. Maybe atheists would see miracles.