People are confronted with dozens, if not thousands, of conflicting religious messages. How can they distinguish between the true and the false?
They’re looking for evidence. Some more than others. And some more logically than others.
But what kind of evidence do they look for?
If you took a course in Christian apologetics, you’d think that people are mainly interested in philosophical arguments for God’s existence and historical evidence for the truth of the Bible. To a lesser degree, they would also want to know how to reconcile God and science. No doubt that those questions get asked a lot in the academic world. But are those the kinds of evidence that ordinary people are looking for? In my experience, not at all. Those questions are far too advanced.
Dorothy Sayers was a crime writer, a friend of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton, and also wrote in defense of “mere Christianity.” After seeing Sayer’s Advent play, a viewer wrote:
“If you mixed as much as I do with people to whom the Gospel story seems to be nothing but a pretty fairy tale, you would know how much of their contemptuous indifference is due to one fact: that never for one moment have they seen it as a real thing, happening to a living people. Nor, indeed, are they fully convinced that Christians believe in its reality.”
Although that letter was written over eighty years ago, many still think of the Gospel as a fairy tale. How can we convince them of its reality? What evidence can we show them?
There’s a host of evidence that seem outside of our control. In the Gospels and Acts, the truth of the gospel message was attested by signs and miracles—healings, exorcisms, miraculous feedings, words of knowledge, and Christ’s resurrection. Those signs called people to faith in Christ. I have friends who tell me those things don’t happen today and other friends who testify they’ve seen them first-hand.
But there’s another practical kind of evidence that can help. Jesus said:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Loving others shows the reality of your discipleship. It shows that you really believe it. But if you don’t love, people could reasonably draw the opposite conclusion:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
John says, “liar.” Others would say “hypocrite.” Love is evidence. When Christians love, unbelievers can glimpse the Christian message in action.
Don’t think of the evidence of love in terms of you being watched by the whole world. That’s too big and abstract. Think of it in more concrete terms.
Imagine the kid across the street who sees how you interact with your family. He’s forming his stereotypes about what Christians are like. What’s he going to learn from you?
Think of a co-worker who hears what you say about other people in the office and wonders if this “God stuff” is real.
Think of that family in the church that is struggling to pay the bills and buy groceries and who are wondering where God is.
What will they see when they look at your life—will they see a disciple or a liar? And what will they think of the gospel—as a reality or a fairy tale?
God made every person for an eternal loving relationship, so when an unbeliever sees a grace-based unconditional love in action, it answers a deeply felt existential need they have been created with.
Thought for the day: The evidence of love helps the gospel ring true.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.
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