As a Christian married to an agnostic, I know how to love and accept people whose beliefs are not like my own. I am fortunate that my husband respects my religious beliefs even if he does not share them. However, there are many people who are disrespectful and intolerant of Christians as a recent letter in the Denver Post Ask Amy column illustrates.
We have otherwise terrific relatives who insist on imposing their inane and arcane religious beliefs on everyone they invite over for dinner. They'll say: "You've got to pray before we'll give you any food."
Since we have a devout belief in not talking to ourselves — particularly in public — we find this extremely offensive.
What's the best way to handle the situation, short of excommunicating the relatives from our lives?— Sane Relatives
Like Amy, I sincerely doubt that the hosts force their relatives to pray for their food! It's interesting that the writer claims to be extremely offended at people who openly express their faith because religious freedom and freedom of speech have always been treasured rights in this country. Preserving those freedoms is worth the price of occasionally being offended or uncomfortable. And if you equate praying to a god (the God) that none of us can see with talking to yourself or even with insanity, then perhaps the better emotional response would be concern, not just for your Christian relatives but for the countless human beings who believe in a higher being.
Many people who don't believe in God seem to take great pride in their unbelief and hold believers in disdain. I wouldn't say that I am proud of my belief but I am not ashamed of it. Pride is the wrong word because my knowledge of God did not come through my own smarts or efforts. The right word is gratitude; I am grateful that God gave me eyes to see and ears to hear his truth. I am grateful that I clearly see my own inadequacy and that I can turn to my Creator for strength and mercy. I am thankful for the joy and peace that God gives me.
Mark 8:38 New International Version
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.
My words are meaningless if I only imagine God exists. In fact, I am a fool if God is just a figment of my imagination! One of my favorite childhood hymns was He Lives. The chorus says in part: You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart. Today, I would still answer the "how do you know?" question in the same way. I know God exists because his Spirit is with me.
But as an adult living in a world where Christianity is so often ridiculed, I have to acknowledge that many people don't believe in something they can't see with their own eyes or in anything that hasn't been proven scientifically. I realize that God appears arcane or mysterious and unknowable to those who haven't sought to know Him. Many people find it more attractive and practical to create a god in their own image. Believe it or not, I have had doubts myself. I am a rational, intelligent person who critically examines my faith to see if it makes sense to my mind. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.'
I find myself wanting to defend my belief in God and Jesus Christ (see Christian apologetics), because I want people to know that God is good and that he loves us. I want to emphasize that I am not writing in defense of Christians. The word Christian has been thrown around so casually that many people can't see the Christ in Christian. I am writing in defense of my belief in a sovereign God and salvation through his Son Jesus Christ. I am not an academic or theologian and I don't pretend to have all the answers. I plan to focus on at least these issues for now, maybe more in time:
- What is truth anyway?
- Creation, evolution
- A personal God who wants to be known