I dedicated myself to apologetics because it saved my faith, solidifies the faith of believers and is an invaluable tool for reaching the lost. It is truly the evangelistic feature of defending Christianity that has made it my passion.
But is it enough?
From the time I first began reading the Gospels as a new Christian in 1997, I have been haunted by the fact that “sinners” wanted to be around Jesus but they don’t want to be around His followers today. Think about this–Jesus is the incarnate, sinless, only begotten Son of God and “traitors” and prostitutes wanted to be around him. But they typically flee from us like a vegan from a McDonalds!
I have thought a lot about when I was an atheist and the types of Christians I didn’t want to be around. Typically, I avoided two types of believers: (1) the conspiracy theorist who identified every other world leader as the anti-Christ; and (2) the angry judgmental Christian. The first category embarrassed me but the second annoyed me.
Part of my time in the atheist wilderness consisted of a stint in politics. I had become a libertarian after reading the works of satirist P.J. O’Rourke but I worked for conservative Republicans. I loathed the sour looks I would get from some Christians who permeated the GOP at the time when I would light up a cigarette (although today I would get those looks from the health obsessed leftist as well) or crack open a beer or accidentally let a curse word fly from my mouth.
I absolutely could not stand that look and I made it a point to avoid such a person with every fiber of my being. But would Jesus have done so?
I had a theology professor in seminary who argued that what may have attracted “sinners” to Jesus was a non-threatening presence. It makes sense.
Of course, Jesus didn’t remain quiet in the face of sin but His loving persona made it generally tolerable for the person to hear. My father once said that the best minister or mentor was someone who could tell you, “you are wrong” and still make you feel good! In my experience, such a person has a gentle strength about him or her and that’s truly an attribute every Christian should possess.
Apologists should especially take note. We few, proud nerds of the Kingdom devour books, lectures, podcasts and blog posts and such an arsenal of knowledge can intimidate people.
What can we do?
We need to remember that as important as it is to always be able to give an answer (1 Peter 3:!5), we must do so as gently as possible with as much love for the person in front of us as possible. We need to remember to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day to remember that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we are always in a better position than we deserve. We need to engage in the spiritual disciplines to stay close to God and remind ourselves always of our utter dependence upon him.
Finally, we also need to pray for every unbeliever around us. Last week, I was privileged to attend a few of the sessions on evangelism at Xenos Church’s annual Summer Institute. Lee Strobel stated that one of the things that constantly drives him to prayer for the lost was this question: If Jesus showed up in person to his house and said He would grant all of his prayers from last week, how many new members of the Kingdom would there be? Lee reminded everyone in attendance that Jesus prayed for sinners right up to his last breath on the cross. We are all servants and no servant is above his master (John 13:16).
Let us all pray, fast and reflect on the grace given to us until we cultivate a non-threatening presence so that the lost may truly have ears to hear the defense of the hope we have within us.
Until next time, grace and peace.