Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Jesus?

Something in me said that the man seated to my left would have some good questions for me. Perhaps it was his horn-rimmed glasses, or that he seemed to be taking things in with a good-natured skepticism. As dinner was being served at our Wednesday Community Fellowship at Grace, he looked at me and smiled and said, “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” Hearing my affirmative, he said, “Why Jesus?” I didn’t understand. So he asked me again. I apologized for seeming obtuse, and so he clarified, “Why Jesus and not God?” He went on to say that Jesus and God were different, and that Jesus could not have been God because God is eternal and Jesus died, thus not God. Usually when you have a conversation with someone with these types of questions, they come across as accusations, and you get the feeling that they just want to pick a fight. But with this guy, while his questions were pointed, they were said with a genuine smile, and I got the sense that while his mind was made up, he hoped that someday someone could change it.

I’ve been in a lot of conversations with non-Christians, and this was this first one of its kind. This man seemed very passionate about God as God, and had an affinity for the God of the Old Testament. In fact, he had grown up in church and knew the Bible very well. The only time our conversation soured for a moment was when I told him this joke (it fit the context of our conversation): A man climbs to the top of Mount Sinai to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord. "God, what does a million years mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A minute." The man asks, "And what does a million dollars mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A penny.” The man asks, "Can I have a penny?" The Lord replies, "In a minute."

He told me that I had just taken God’s name in vain, using it in a joke, to which I replied that I was sorry he felt that way but that I think God is joyful and enjoys laughter if it’s not at His expense. He seemed to accept that and our conversation continued.

The question of “Why Jesus?”, while not usually asked from the same point of view as this man, is one that we as Christians need to be ready to answer. “Because” is not enough. “Um…” will not cut it. As Peter says, always be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have. Not simply an intellectual defense of the veracity of Scripture (though that is good to have ,too) but a reason for the hope. “Why Jesus?” Because I know Him. Because He has changed me and He is evident in my life and in the lives of my friends who know Him. Because I have found that He alone is life for the soul. Because He lives. I hope that Al comes back so that we can continue to talk – I enjoyed his company.

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