Friday, November 11, 2016

He's Not Wicked, He's My Friend

For many people, the thing that makes Christianity hard to believe is the miracle stories — talking donkeys, burning bushes, and walking dead people.

But for another group of people the hard thing is the people they meet. This can be true for both non-Christians and Christians, and it's the latter that I want to talk about.

For Christians, likable non-Christians can be a strong anti-apologetic. Once we leave our Christian enclaves, we run into nice Muslims, homosexuals, and atheists, and it's hard to think that these people are "wicked sinners" who deserve hell. I've been there. Some of the nicest people I've ever met were Mormons. I've got friends and family living a gay lifestyle. I care about a number of people whose philosophy of religion can be summed up as "meh."

These people make us want to believe that big chunks of Christianity aren't true. Jesus rose from the dead? Sure, fine. God is love? Cool. There will be a judgment after which the unbelievers will be cast away and punished forever? Whoa, wait a minute, I don't like that one.

There are two very important things that we have to keep in mind when we struggle with this.

First, we didn't just come up with this. People ask how we can believe in terrible things like hell. I counter that I believe it for the same reason I believe if you step off a cliff you'll fall to your death — it's true. The truth isn't always nice. Important truths frequently aren't.

We didn't just sit around making up a theology and decided we needed something to do with the "others." We didn't decide that Jesus is the only way to God. We didn't decide that there would be a judgment. We didn't just make up everlasting punishment for unbelievers. Jesus said that.

If we believe Jesus rose from the dead we have to accept that he pointed to that as a vindication of all of his work and teaching. And he taught that one day he would have to tell many people, "Depart from me, I never knew you."

Secondly, we have to remember that, as much as we hate this truth, God hates it more.

CS Lewis put it this way: "I said glibly a moment ago that i would pay 'any price' to remove this doctrine [of hell]. I lied. I could not pay one-thousandth part of the price that God has already paid to remove the fact [of it]" (The Problem of Pain, emphasis added).

God paid a high price to keep people from going to hell. And then he told us to go tell everybody about it.

So don't let your love of your non-Christian friends and family make you shy away from the truth of the gospel. Make it make you determined to share with them the good news:

We're all wicked sinners, but while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.