Last week I met a Russian Jew named Mike.
Mike is a successful businessman who studied biochemestiry, physics, and law. He comes from a family of Harvard professors and physicists, and he loves a lively intellectual discussion.
After telling me a bit about his wife and daughter, Mike told me his grandparents and great grandparents were killed by Stalin. He said his mom's life has made her tough as nails, and that their family is forever changed by the deaths of the men and women who gave them the gift of life.
Then Mike said he can’t believe in God. He said it doesn’t make sense that a powerful, loving God would sit back while he watched a few weak men extinguish millions and millions of weaker men.
I get it. I get why Mike, in his heart, struggles to believe in the existence of an almighty, good God. And although I have never lived the suffering that Mike’s family has, I think I understand that suffering can be one of the greatest obstacles in our search for God.
But I also know that our hearts can lead us astray, and that our suffering can point and propel us to a God whose goodness and power are evident in the way he invaded and is rewriting our sickening history.
In the midst of a world where tsunamis, genocides, dictators, earthquakes and terrorists etch horror onto the pages of our human story, there is a Hope that doesn’t disappoint.
And that Hope has its reasons.
The next few posts will focus a bit on how to share, with confidence and grace, the reasons for the Hope we have with people like Mike.
I’ll start by talking about reaching the person you’re talking to. Because for some of us, it’s easy for our passion for the truth to turn into a passion for being right, rather than a passion for the soul of the person in front of us.
And for others of us it’s easy to cower in the corner, heart racing, breathing labored as we search for a few feeble words that can somehow sum up the greatest, most beautiful truth in the world.
So how can we share our hope in a way that is winsome and compelling, and assure the person with whom we're talking that we really care about them, and not an agenda?
Here are several ways I have learned to lower a person's defenses as I endeavor to be a speaker of the Truth in love:
1. Get to know the person you're talking to. Show them you care about them as a person by showing interest in the three Rs:
- Relationships (spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, kids, family)
- Responsibilities (work, extracurriculars, school)
- Recreation (hobbies, sports, interests)
(Thanks to my mom for creating and teaching me the three Rs as a girl!)
2. Respect the person you're talking to, even when you disagree with them. Validate their feelings and intentions.
3. Be honest and humble.
- Admit your limitations: “What I don’t know I won’t pretend to understand.”
4. Find common ground. Don't set yourself apart to the extent that you create a chasm between yourself and the person you're talking to.
- Avoid going right into "I'm a Christian so I believe...". This immediately ostracizes your reader, and makes the conversation more about your beliefs than the person of Jesus Christ.
- Shared desires and values
- Common experiences and beliefs
Come back for some possible atheistic objections and compelling Christian responses in “Hope Has Its Reasons,” Part II.