Back to the Basics

I found myself in an interesting situation last Friday night. It was not a situation too unfamiliar. In fact, it was a situation that I love. I was with International students and we were discussing the things of God. However, I came away from that time feeling very burdened by our conversation. I had to go home and talk it all out with Matt, who was furiously working on a paper but didn’t mind the interruption. Basically this Chinese student/self-proclaimed agnostic is searching for the truth about Jesus. Here he is sitting at a table of about 7 or so Christians asking some very basic questions. As basic as they were, they hit so deep and I found myself struggling to answer him. It is easy to answer questions of religion of someone who is at least familiar with the religion or belief system in question. But what about someone with no background except for snippets he has picked up on from what his government has taught him and now what we are telling him. He asked, “Why are you a Christian and I am not.” How do you answer this? “Well, I asked Jesus into my heart when I was young. He changed me from being a bad kid to now being a better adult. He took away my sins. I have a relationship with him. I am going to live with him forever.” Good stuff right? To us, yes. But to him, he had no clue what we were talking about. He actually asked us why we love Jesus and when we said that He has changed us, his conclusion is that we simply grew up and are more mature. He asked us about prayer. Why do we pray? How do we pray? Can we hear Jesus speak to us? He has heard a Christian say that Jesus spoke to them. So he tried to go into a quite room to see if he could hear Jesus speak. Nothing happened. He also told us of an observation of his. Us Christians always pray before meals. But why? It seems like such a ritual and it’s always so fast. Well we said we pray to thank God for providing for us. So why not pray at the end he suggested. And speaking of God’s provision. We tried to say that we don’t follow God for what He gives us but for who He is but that He always provides for us. “But what about all the Christians who die of starvation around the world? Doesn’t God provide for them too?” And all that talk about God leading us and helping us make decisions, isn’t that all just coincidence? These questions were only a taste of our conversation. Now can you sense a little bit of my burden. Here I am, an Intercultural Studies Major and I am stumbling about trying to answer why I follow Jesus. This guy wasn’t being antagonistic by asking these questions. He was genuinely wanting to know. I am now starting to think he may also be hiding behind his questions since he has been coming for a while and tends to ask some of the same things. One time Matt had a chance to challenge some of his atheistic ideas and made him really think. Regardless, God is obviously working in his life and we will continue to pray for him. I came back so humbled and burdened though. This guy doesn’t need our typical Sunday school answers. Due to his cultural background, he won’t get them anyways. He doesn’t need to hear what Jesus has done for me, although amazing. He doesn’t need to hear how prayer works. It won’t even work for him right now anyways. What he needs is the pure, straightforward gospel. Who Jesus is and what He did at the Cross. Once his heart is awakened to his own sin and he has an understanding of the cross, he will be at a crossroads following Jesus as Lord or not. But if and when we are faced with the question of why we follow Jesus, what is our first reaction. Is it that He has done all the great things in my life and given me so many blessings? Those are great things but should they be our first reason and the reason others should follow Him too? After Friday night, I am convinced that should not be our first reason. What we need to do is go straight to the cross. To Jesus. To why He died. And for our international friends that may mean starting at the very beginning. Whatever it takes, point them to Jesus.

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