Monday, November 04, 2013

4 Key Reflections on a 'Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower'

Photo Credit: Len Spoden
Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion--especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.

So begins the story of Kristen Powers, a woman who has worked in the Clinton administration and currently contributes to USA Today and Newsweek. She is no slouch and is more influential than you and I will most likely ever be. You can read the rest of her recent article here.

Her story is compelling and as I read, I gleaned four key reflections that both non-Christians and Christians should keep in mind and consider as we engage with one another. They touch on a lot of issues, including cultural open-mindedness, politics, intellect, and experience. I hope you find at least one that relates to where you're at right now.

Being open-minded applies means being open-minded to Jesus: One of the first points Powers makes is that she claimed to be open-minded when she really wasn't. She shares about a time that her boyfriend, who was a Christian and went to church, asked her if she believed Jesus was her Savior. She  said, honestly, "no." She goes on to write,
Then he said the magic words for a liberal: 'Do you think you can keep an open mind about it?' Well of course. 'I'm very open-minded!' Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world.
Let me just ask point blank - is this what you think about Christians? I know most people who read this are already Christians, but there may be a few of you who come to this blog out of sheer curiosity. Thank you for that; I really appreciate it. But I have had enough conversations with people to know that I am usually viewed as closed-minded, smart, but in a limited way, and extremely restrictive in my understanding of how to love people. When I try to flip it and ask people to be open to Christianity, they are strong to reject me. Why is that? Why would they, or perhaps you, not even consider having an open mind about Jesus as the Bible shows us who he is? It may be because of your experience as a kid growing up in the church. It may be because of all the news you read about so-called Christians and how they picket funerals of dead homosexuals. It may be because of how political Christians are and how they want to have a Christians nation. I hear you on all of that. I'm not advocating for any of that stuff and I can see how it affects your view of Christianity. But what if there is someone in your life who genuinely loves you and cares for you and wants you to have an "open mind" about Jesus? Will you let him and her walk with you through that journey?

Christianity is not about being Democratic or Republican: Back to the political issue. Powers writes that "one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican." She is a strong, highly successful, intellectual woman. Yet, she had done what many of us do - reduce Christianity to a political party. Christianity becomes about the political issues and not about Jesus. He is co-opted for votes. Her fear is probably like many of yours, that if you become a Christian you have to be a Republican. That is not the point. In fact, you don't have to be Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Socialist or whatever. Jesus is King. God owns all. That's where we have to begin. And, for the record, Powers is the Democratic commentator for Fox News.

Christianity is intellectually viable: Powers shares that her first visit to Redeemer Presbyterian Church was initially appalling. It was just like the church she had grown up in, all high-churchy.
But then the pastor preached. I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller's sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy...Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week...Each week, Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn't the real thing, neither was atheism.
You may have heard stupid sermons that go on for minutes or hours about dumb minute details of English versions of the Bible. You may have heard a sermons growing up that assumed a lot belief and answered none of your pressing questions. I talk with many people who have walked away from Christianity because the pastor couldn't answer their questions, only to never ask them again. However, Tim Keller is one of many examples of people who show that while it doesn't necessarily have to be, Christianity is intellectually viable in a world of competing ideologies. I would argue that it is more than that; it has the strongest explanatory power out of all the ways we look at the world. If you're not a Christian and struggle with the intellectual side of it all, I'd encourage you to check out Tim Keller and his book, The Reason for God. I'd also recommend anything from Ravi Zacharias or go old school with C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. If you are a Christian, point your friends in the direction of these men or try to understand what they're saying in such a way that you can articulate some of their thoughts.

It takes more than intellect; it requires an encounter with Jesus: After months of hearing Keller preach, Powers was at the place where she didn't believe in Jesus. She was only at the place where she knew atheism and agnosticism aren't viable alternatives. Eventually, after eight months and beginning to read the Bible, she "concluded that the weight of evidence was on the side of Christianity." Even as one reads that line, it comes off as an agreement from the mind for her. She says herself that she "didn't feel any connection to God."

Powers goes on to share about two experiences. The first one"felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality" where Jesus came to her and spoke to her. She tried to write it off as some weird delusion, but she couldn't. She writes, "I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy." Her second experience was a Bible study led by Tim Keller's wife, Kathy. She shares about that experience:
I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don't remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I'll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, "It's true. It's completely true." The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.
Intellectual assent is not enough. It's a place where you can acknowledge that Jesus is God, Savior, King, and Lord, but it's for the world or for others or it makes sense, but there's no real encounter where Jesus enters in and changes your life. While he may begin in your thoughts, intellect, and reasoning, it's a short stop on the destination to the seat of your will, desires, and identity resides. Since God created every part of you and me, he wants to save every part of you and me and the core of where that begins is not the mind, but the heart.

By His Grace.

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Such good points- and I found it really encouraging to hear about her decision to become a Christian. God is sovereign!