Conversations That Matter

   I had a friend (he has since passed away) who used to ask Christians the question, what’s the most important thing that’s happened in your life? The question and what it evokes as an answer reminds me of the Sunday School teacher who asked her class about the lesson she had just taught on nature. Following the question and a prolonged silence, one of the children spoke up and said, “I think the answer is a squirrel...but I’m going to answer Jesus.”  

   Some questions in certain audience contexts seem to beg for a cliché answer. Asking the question of Christians, what’s the most important thing that’s happened in your life, often evokes a standard cliché answer: the most important thing that’s happened in my life has been coming to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Nonetheless, despite the platitude sounding answer, if Christianity is anywhere near the truth about its view of Jesus—regarding who He is and what He has done for us—then it is the right answer.  

  One of my “campus" excesses has been to attend many philosophy presentations, if they are open to the public. I do that just to keep up with the latest version of epistemology, metaphysics or the latest thoughts on axiological theories. In one of those presentations, given by an atheist, he made what I thought was a remarkable statement. In describing how beliefs were generally formed, he talked specifically about theistic believers as thinking of themselves as being in a personal, loving relationship with a perfectly good being (emphasis mine). He seemed to think that such a belief might provide some justification for the belief, in spite of what he thought was a lack of evidence for it and postive evidence against it. 

   While I thought that was an interesting position to take—especially for a non-believer, it was not the justification angle that grabbed me. What caught me was his apparent insight into something not always appreciated by believers unless they reflect on it seriously. 

  We Christians are in a personal relationship with a Person who is perfectly good! That is certainly how I think about it; and when I reflect on how wonderful that is and what a privilege it is, I find myself rejoicing that He is the kind of person I've longed to know. It reminded that among my best (human) friends are the kind of people that everyone likes; no doubt it’s that way in part, because it was the good in them that was attracting me to them. However, at best they are only imperfect reflections of a Being in whose image they were made.  

   I have met people who have loved the abstract notion of the "good," but isn’t it so much better to know and love the person who instantiates the good, instead of merely an absract notion? Our Lord is the person who “embodies” and exemplifies the good and can be known in a way abstract notions cannot.

  By the way, I disagreed with what the speaker was saying about justification specifically, because I think that theism does have evidence for it and the evidence against it (mostly the problem of evil), isn’t as strong an argument as many think, even though I appreciate its emotional forcefulness. 

  The point I want to highlight is that Christian theism, when and if properly understood, offers something of inestimable intrinsic value. That truth is needed to correct the projected caricatures many non-believers (and some believers) have of God; few of us would want to come into a relationship with anyone if they exemplified the caricatures we carry with us.

  Obviously there are other good reasons for coming to believe that God exists and that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, but this insight into the nature of the One and what that could mean offers tremendous value for the here and now! It is also offering an eternal relational future with such a Being. It reminds me when I’m in conversation with my non-believing friends about these things, that I’m practicing a form of philanthropy.  

  That brings me to a couple of concluding thoughts. 1)  Having a conversation with your non-believing colleagues about God and the great things of the Gospel, from the perspective we have been talking about, properly understood can be a sincere act of philanthropy. Having that unmentioned perspective in our hip pocket, can have a positive affect on how we relate to those with whom we enter into those conversations that matter.  

2)  While faith that God exists can be presented and defended conceptually, faith in God—coming into a loving commitment to Him is primarily a work of God in a person’s life. In these conversations we do what we can and He does what He alone can do. We do our 100%, God does His 100%, but His 100% is much more important than our 100%.

Enjoy the conversations that matter with your colleagues, and leave the results to God.

Further readings:

1)  ACI White Paper: Peer to Peer Journey Guidance

2)  ACI Site Devoted to Better Mentoring the Journey © Academic Connections, International