Everyone needs someone in their life who challenges their opinions. Everyone needs someone to talk to who sees the world differently than they do. Everyone needs someone who will hear their voice and respond in such a way which makes them question their very thoughts. We all need contrast. We all need opposition. We all need confrontation. We all need to be willing to step outside of our self-composed boxes and open ourselves up to see the world a new. We all need a little bit of shananagins in our lives.
At our favorite coffee shop, we met a man name unlike any person I’ve encountered before. This man is a eccentric hippie from California who has been living in Chiang Mai on and off throughout the last eleven years. There isn’t a word in the English language dictionary that can describe him, but everything from his dreads to his white heart-shaped sunglasses to his daily practice of yoga and vegan life-style exemplifies the man he is. While he is vastly different than I, I appreciate him. I appreciate all of the things we have in common because coincidentally enough, we have a lot of similar views. However, this particular person always takes those common world views one step further which throw off the whole balance. He truly is…interesting.
He does not practice Christianity, nor does he believe Jesus is the son of God. Briefly, he aligns more with Buddhists beliefs. He believes Jesus was a Buddhist, himself and has come to the conclusion all humans are a god in their own way. Needless to say, talking about Christianity with him is quite…interesting. Recently I learned more of his back story. He went to church for some time back in the states and practiced Christianity a bit while dating a Southern Baptist. When I asked what directed his steps elsewhere, he said he found a lot of hypocrisy in the church and he was never able to grasp the concept of salvation (or the soul) the way Christians view it. He did a ton of research and has a lot of evidence to support his opinions. I give him credit for that. I give him credit for the confidence he has in his opinions. I also give him credit for the many hours we spent discussing (not arguing about) Christianity versus other religions and belief systems.
For the first time in my life I found myself defending the Gospel of Christ when talking with him. There were previous times in life when I shared the Gospel for the first time; there were times I debated over the Gospel with other believers, but I cannot recall a time when I felt I was standing on the front lines of battle defending my spiritual beliefs. This man made it a point to say he believes I am a Christian because of the environment I was raised in. Because I was nurtured and raised by a Christian family, I was rooted in Christian beliefs. My culture determined my religious point of view, and so I am the way I am b cause it was forced upon me. Had I been raised in a Buddhist society, I would probably be Buddhist. Not only did I feel I was in a position to defend Christ as Lord and Savior, but I was in a position to defend what I believe and why I believe it.
I am confident in what I believe. I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe he is my savior. I believe my sins are forgiven and I believe I will spend eternity with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I believe in the Truth of the Gospel. But his opposition really got me questioning why do I believe all that which Christianity believes? Was it imposed on me because I went to church every Sunday with my family and listened to my grandfather preach the sermon as a child? How do I defend that?
Truth be told, I think this guy has a valid point. I am a Christian because I was raised to be one. My family did go to church every Sunday and my grandfather was the man upfront preaching the sermons. I wasn’t raised in a Buddhist society, and I had no other religious beliefs surround me throughout my childhood. I am a Christian because I was nurtured and molded to be so, but here’s the thing about being a “Christian,” I believe “Christian” is just a title. I think in most of today’s western world being a Christian bears the same weight as being a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher. With all the denominations and liberal versus conservative viewpoints of Christianity, what does calling myself a Christian actually mean? Calling myself a Christian is simply giving myself a title.
However, there is an aspect of my Christian title I didn’t get the chance to explain to him. Christianity may be a label I behold, but beyond having that title, I have a relationship. And it is because of that relationship I believe what I believe. It is because of that relationship I defend the Gospel of Christ. No one can get to God unless they go through Jesus, and no one is able to do so unless called upon by the Father (John 14:6, 6:55). Who is called? Is everyone called, even those who are raised in non-believing societies? Yes. I believe everyone is called (Ephesians 1:4-5). I also believe everyone has a choice to answer that call. God chose each and everyone of us before creation began, and he gave us free will to choose him in return.
Our coffee shop friend asked me why I am a Christian. I suppose I’m a Christian because it’s the belief system that was imposed on me as a child. How do I defend my Christian title? I defend it by explaining the relationship — a loving, caring, intimate, fearless relationship with my creator. He is my father and I am his child, forever. Why? Because I stepped out in faith, and I chose to respond to his relentless pursuit. I don’t have a jaw dropping testimony where I encountered God and my whole life was changed. Rather, I have a life composed of moments and stories which provide evidence that God is real and true and loving and constant and faithful. Though I’m only 24, I faced great challenges and have gone through difficult times. I have also witnessed miracles and have seen the miraculous sweep through my own life. When you chose Christ in return, there’s no denying a love like his isn’t real. I don’t have to prove my beliefs to anyone. God proves it for me. My life is my message. My message is my testimony, and my testimony is God’a passionate pursuit to win over my heart.
I think being a Christian has become a social, political and religious label, and if you’re walking around carrying that label without having a relationship with the Father, how do you defend what you believe in?
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… -1 Peter 3:15
Will you be ready to defend Truth if a someone with opposing views walks into your life? Can you defend with gentleness and respect? If you do consider yourself Christian, I encourage you to examine the relational aspect of your belief. You have been chosen..no matter your past, no matter your present, no matter your heart’s condition. Will you choose God back? He is ready to meet you on any and every dusty road. He’s wiling to answer your questions if you’re willing to ask. It’s a fearless relationship, but the ball is in your court.
I’m thankful for our coffee shop friend and I pray he will find his way back to Christ again. It’s not my job to shove the Gospel down his throat, but I will continue to spend hours listening to his crazy way of life and will continue to share the love of God with him. It amazing how God still works through the lives of the lost and the blind to make his purposes known. I hope you all encounter a person of difference in your lives. We all need to be shaken up every now and again. It helps you reestablish your roots. I like that.