When I went to China this summer to teach English, I lived among some of the most generous people I've ever met. My students, who are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, gave me so many presents that I had to purchase more luggage to take it all back home. The Chinese teachers at our middle school regularly blew me away with their thoughtfulness. They spared no expense or convenience to treat me with the greatest respect and kindness. They are atheists.
A few years ago, a man I know turned his marriage around from the brink of divorce with the help of New Age philosophy. I was a witness to the change that took place in him. I shared the gospel with him, and he hated the gospel.
A few months ago, I met a shaman while I was taking a walk in a park. He works for the county, helping to rehabilitate hundreds of violent, depressed, angry teens that were placed in juvenile detention centers. His success rate is astonishing, and as a result of his "spiritual mentorship" his kids go on to lead peaceful lives. He's been doing this for decades, and the county finds him indispensable. When I met him, he was looking for a rattlesnake; he catches snakes, keeps them in his house, and uses them for demonic "spiritual healing" practices.
Are you starting to feel uncomfortable?
I hope so. These events are not isolated—I could supply more examples easily.
People who do not know or love Jesus are leading moral lives. They are doing good, washing cars for free, and influencing other people to quit their destructive lifestyles. They are devoting themselves to promoting kindness and peace. It isn't a sham. These things are really happening. Change is happening.
First Peter 3:15 exhorts us, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (emphasis added).
So let's talk about this.
- What do we have, as disciples of Jesus, to offer the world that is different and separate and more?
- If a shaman in your county asked you what makes Christianity unique, what would you tell him?
- You volunteer to help people out in church, and you try to do kind things for your family and friends. What makes your actions distinctly Christ-like rather than merely moral?
- If other people are getting results from pagan sources and atheist worldviews, why shouldn't we embrace tolerance? Why not say, "I have faith in Jesus, but I support whatever works for you personally"?
- First Peter 3:15 seems to imply that people ask about the "hope that is in us." Can the moral unbelievers in your life see that you have a hope they do not have? If so, what is the hope that they see?
We're going to return to the four cases I mentioned above in a later post, so stay tuned. I look forward to hearing your brainstorming as we hash this out together in the comments!