One of my favourite people ever is agnostic. Strangely enough, he has done more for my faith than just about anyone else in my life. We have difficult discussions, perhaps made more challenging by the difference in our worldviews. As much as I wish he would return to a place of faith, I can’t deny the world needs more people like him–those capable of independent thought, not stemming from rebellion, but a genuine thirst for knowledge.
A common theme in our discussions is that he thinks my faith is…unshakable? He once said he can’t picture me at a place of not believing God exists. For some reason, this has always baffled me, perhaps because belief in God’s existence does not imply it has any effect on one’s life. Perhaps because of the gulf that has always existed between my head and my heart.
I think, to him, it’s hard to perceive the love of a God whose existence you have much reason to question. For me, it’s hard to deny the existence of a God whose love you can’t escape, despite your best efforts. That’s probably the hardest thing to explain: that I’m not a Christian because I’m awesome and I just love this Jesus Guy so much, but because I honestly suck, and He hasn’t backed down from that.
In the face of relentless love, it would be intellectually dishonest of me to say God doesn’t exist, but what does an acknowledgement of His existence guarantee? Can’t I know He exists, but not give a hoot? Can’t I live as if He doesn’t exist, as if I’m sovereign, as if what He says doesn’t matter? I can. And I have. That is the story of my life and my faith journey. Almost 20 years in, I’m still a colossal wretch, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what the Cross shows us? That we are all far from awesome, but it’s not a deal-breaker? That we are tansformed, not by understanding we are wrong, but by understanding we are loved? That God, who is Love, is willing to walk with us…as we are?
That’s a hard concept for many people, especially Christians, to grasp. Maybe that’s why I don’t know how to talk to people about this Jesus I know…because He might not be the same one you have heard about. Maybe you’ve heard about a ‘God’ whose love you have to work for, who is put off by your failings and the very stench of your humanity, who dangles the idea of salvation like a carrot, but is really waiting for you to screw up enough for him to cut you off. But, that’s not my God. If He were like that, I would have been cut off years ago…because I’m not joking when I say I’m a sinner.
I’m definitely not a good person, and I probably break more of God’s laws than many people who don’t even believe in Him. I’m detached and callous, I have anger issues, and if the morality police decided to come after me? Life sentence. There is nothing about me that qualifies me to be a Christian, and I’d be an even bigger liar if I told you I could change. It is not in me to love God, or even to love people well. I care, but only as much as my built-in resistance allows. I’m about as far from perfect as you’re likely to find on this planet, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I am a sinner. And that is why I need Jesus.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.