A student recently asked me a question about what to say to someone who doesn’t believe (in God) because of things that have happened in their past. It made me think again about something that happened when I was in the 11th grade. We were given some free time in class and one student made the statement that she didn’t believe in God. This statement came as a shock to most of the class…not because everyone thought she was a believer, but because is was unusual for someone to make that sort of proclamation in my school. The religious discussions that normally took place in my school were between believers and were about religious issues. Non-believers generally didn’t enter such discussions.
Of course, being the good baptists, church of christs, assembly of Gods, lutherans, etc. that we were, we took the opportunity to attempt to change her unbelief. This discussion took up the rest of the class period, and probably went on for 20 or 30 minutes. This student was an active participant in the discussion, and while I don’t believe her opinion was in any way swayed by the discussion, I also didn’t get the feeling that she felt set-upon or derided for her position on God. In the course of the discussion, she revealed that her unbelief stemmed from the fact that even though she had prayed for healing for her sick grandmother, she did not recover and died.
After the class period was over, one girl came up to me red-faced and with tear-filled eyes and choked voice asked how anyone could say they don’t believe in God. To this day I still don’t know what prompted this question from a classmate I had rarely spoken with our entire time in school together, and I’d like to be able to say that I had a very profound answer for her query. The best answer I could muster was a sad, “I don’t know,” along with some comment on how everyone has to come to God in their own time and that we should pray for her.
You see, for this girl, God was “the big suggestion box in the sky,” and when her suggestion (prayer) was not answered in a manner suitable to her, she assumed there must be no one listening. Some people may not believe in God because of how they have been treated by churches/Christians in the past. Others may feel that the things they’ve done in the past make them unworthy or unable to be loved. Sometimes the only way to reach people with hangups about the past is to show them God in the present. No amount of reasoning or convincing will change their mind. We must be the living examples of Christ’s love in their lives. We must strive to live so that when they look at us they see a reflection of Christ.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 11:1