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BEING AN ATHEIST WAS GOOD TRAINING FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 1, 2023 – Every so often, I get contacted by people I knew when I was an atheist but who’ve heard I’m now a Christian. All the contact is done by email. Sometimes it comes in the form of a letter that reads like a job application, with a long list of accomplishments that could double as a resume. Or sometimes it reads like this: “You $#@%ing piece of #@@$! I $#@%ing HATE YOU!!!!”
They reach out in pride or anger and sometimes in pity or curiosity, but my job is to respond the same to all of them – in love. The prideful ones and the ones who curse me, I answer in prayer. The rest I answer in carefully coached words that minister to them without them knowing they’re being ministered to. I usually never hear from them again after their initial outreach, though a few do email me again a while later, more combatively than at first. I suspect that most of the emails are written while drunk.
Jesus never included any of his family or friends in his initial circle of followers. In fact, it wasn’t until his death and resurrection that his family members joined the group of believers. Recall that Jesus chose his followers according to God’s directives. He said, “of those you gave me, I have lost none”. So the followers were chosen by God, not by Jesus. Recall also that Jesus said that, as believers, our real family is those who do God’s will. The people who knew Jesus as the son of the carpenter continued to see him as the son of the carpenter, even after he came out as the Messiah, even after he performed miracle after miracle. Jesus said that prophets are not without honor, except among their own people.
It was a hard sell for Jesus, to be seen as something other than a carpenter to those who had only known him as a carpenter. It’s a hard sell for me to be seen as a believer in the eyes of those who only knew me as an unbeliever. They look for chinks in my spiritual armour to drive a wedge into. They write me off as mentally ill. They dismiss me as a fraud. They avoid me like the plague, afraid I’ll dare to utter the holy of name of Jesus in reverence rather than as I used to spew it, in hate.
They’re somehow afraid of me without knowing why. They despise me without knowing why. They look for excuses to hate me and hang their hatred on the smallest perceived slight as justification. I know what they do because I used to do it myself. Being an atheist was good training for being a Christian. I have the insider scoop on what makes unbelievers do what they do and think what they think and hate what they hate. But my knowing these things only makes unbelievers hate me all the more because I chose what they hate, and they can’t understand why.
My job as a born-again believer is to take all this in stride and return their hatred with love. I couldn’t do that without God’s direct intervention. It’s not me taking it all in stride, it’s God working through me. It’s not me loving those who loathe me, it’s God working through me. But it’s me giving God permission to do so. The haters see my love as fraud or idiocy or proof positive of mental illness, but I just continue along my merry way. They more they hate me, the more I pray for them. “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” This is all good training, the daily doses of hate and loathing. Jesus also had years of this kind of training, and it stood him in good stead when he needed it the most: On the cross.
“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”
That, my friends, is the whole point of our training.
That sinking feeling when you realize your time is up. No reprieve. Your bags are packed. Your ride’s at the door. Better not to look around. Better not to savor the view one last time. Better not to let your gaze linger on the cheerful kitchen, the comfy bed. You have to leave. This is not your home. You have to leave… and then it hits you (yet again) that you never really had a home. (more…)
This Much I Know
I have spent the past 18 years living as a Christian. Prior to that, I was a loud and proud atheist.
I have not changed.
My values have changed, but my personality has not. I am still the same impetuous, occasionally impatient, outspoken, laugh-out-loud, fearless person I always was. I did my own thing as an atheist, and I do my own thing now.
Being a Christian doesn’t prevent you from doing your own thing. It just changes what that “thing” is. (more…)
The Christian community is divided into two main camps: those who know God, and those who know about God.
Walk into a church building on any given Sunday and you’ll likely find representatives of both camps. Unfortunately, those who know about God far outnumber those who know him.
Which camp are you in? Which camp are your Christian friends in? (more…)
HOW CAN THERE BE A GOD WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH SUFFERING?
People say: How can there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world? How can there be a God when good and innocent people are brutalized and murdered? (more…)
TURN ON YOUR DARN PORCH LIGHT AND GIVE ‘EM TREATS!
It’s that time of the year again when Christians declare war on cute little kids and free candy by turning off their porch light and refusing to answer the door. I covered this topic last year, but it deserves a rerun.
So here goes: (more…)
BE KIND AND PRAY
Jesus is very clear about how we are to treat people who hate us: We are to be kind to them and pray for them.
We are not to seek revenge in any way or to curse them. We are to be kind to them and pray for them.
Praying means to be kind in our mind, not just in our words or actions.
There is no way that you can do either of those things (be kind and pray for people who hate you) without the help of God’s spirit. (more…)
NONE BUT JESUS
When Jesus told his followers not to hide away from the world but instead to go out into it, preach the Good News and constantly “watch” for the signs of the times, he knew it was not going to be an easy job for them to do. The world is not a pleasant place for believers, and it’s growing less and less pleasant every day. (more…)