I used to suck at talking about God with others. It usually ended in an argument. I came across as a know-it-all. I hurt relationships and lost wars while winning battles. At best, I’d see friends politely listen, while a blank stare would overtake their expression. I often left with a haunting sense, they weren’t quite buying it. Here’s two ways, those conversations have improved.
1. I’m Loyal To Truth.
Back then, if I were honest with you, I couldn’t say that. I was loyal to Christianity and hoped Christianity was also true. There’s a key difference and the people I had conversations with noticed. The great news is, Jesus claims he is true.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6
Jesus is not simply stating he says true things or knows what’s true. He is making the audacious claim, He is truth. He embodies truth. If it’s true, it’ll dead end at Jesus. This has liberated me because I’m no longer threatened by truth I find elsewhere. If it’s true, it’s a step in the right direction of Jesus.
Therefore, we’re really after the same thing. We have the same goal. This isn’t a patronizing manipulation ploy toward the other. In order for the conversation to be constructive and honest, I have to be loyal to truth, and not Christianity. When the other notices this, the me vs. you dynamic fades and we become teammates with a common goal. Nothing under my sleeve. No bait and switch. Lets discover truth together and maybe, just maybe, truth has a name.
2. I’m Not Certain.
I may have some deep convictions. I may be sufficiently confident. But I’m not certain. Another reason why my conversations about God fell short was because the other recognized my attempt to convince them I was certain. I was overcompensating and they saw through it.
That’s because the truth is, we are relational beings speaking of a relational God and there is no certainty in relationships. In fact, I’d say certainty is actually harmful to faith.(1) It’s dishonest and turns faith into an intellectual assent where the more white knuckled you hold your ideas about God, the more “faithful” you are. Certainty can make grace look less amazing.
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” -Luke 23:42,43
This conversation occurs during Jesus’ last few living moments. He hangs on the cross next to a thief. They are minutes from death and the thief offers up a request.
It’s a last ditch effort.
It’s a hail Mary pass.
It could have been Muhammed or Buddha next to him for all the thief cares.
It’s a bail out plan from someone bankrupt.
And it works!
Jesus, without hesitation, accepts the thief’s request.(2) Grace is reckless and offensive. It defies doctrine and fairness. The thief was anything but certain. In fact, certainty doesn’t even fit in this story. But trust does.
Constructive conversations about God begin, when I lay down my attempts at certainty and confess my doubt and questions to another. We can finally talk, when I stop acting like I have it all together, or I’m Mr. Answer Man, or Christianity provides certainty. My humanity shows itself and we realize we’re just two humans slowly learning to trust.
Because it’s always been about trust.
We’re so very human.
We really need help.
So try it out this week. Leave your baggage of certainty at the door, jump into a spiritual conversation and be loyal to truth. You’ll be amazed how quickly both of your defenses can lower and the conversation can become honest, true, and even a little whimsical.
Oh, and a good pint helps as well. 🙂
- Check out Benefit Of The Doubt by Greg Boyd for much more on this.
- This is one of the few times, Jesus clearly determines a person’s eternal destination. He was far more concerned with the here and now.