I never read Wired magazine until my friend Dan subscribed to it. Some college kid came to his door selling magazines to pay for tuition or books or a trip to Cancun—I really don’t know. Anyway, Dan felt bad for the kid, and because ESPN the magazine wasn’t on the list, he chose Wired. A couple of months ago I was over at his place and saw the latest copy on his kitchen counter. The cover article was “The New Atheism.” It’s always a good idea to know what’s happening on both sides of the spiritual fence, so I borrowed it. A few days later, I was at Starbucks having some studying/writing time, so I pulled the magazine out and dug in. It was fascinating, infuriating and depressing all at the same time. Long before Nietzsche proclaimed that “God is dead,” atheists have argued that there is no God. But for a growing number, that is not good enough anymore. It is not enough to have figured out the mysteries of the universe through sheer brilliance and genius. Now, they have gotten into the outreach game. They are now missionaries of nihilism. According to the new atheists, all faith must be extinguished because it is harmful to humanity.
I used to get really angry when I read an article, heard an interview or saw a television show that had such an anti-Christian slant. Any time someone used a public forum to talk about how arrogant, selfish, violent or stupid Christians were, it made me want to scream. As I read the opening of this article that was my natural reaction. I was angry. I was ready for a fight or at least a really heated argument. How could these people be so dense and stupid that they didn’t get it? How could they say such things about Jesus? That’s when I took a 2×4 to the head. They weren’t saying those things about Jesus. They were saying them about me. That’s why their comments hurt so much. That’s why I took it so personally. They weren’t attacking the faith, but the people that claimed to be living out that faith. They were calling me and anyone else that claimed to follow Jesus, a fraud. They’re asking why what I say and what I live don’t match. How can someone that says he loves Jesus and has dedicated his life to Him only love people that are like him? Why is someone that follows a man that accepted and welcomed people the way that they were sitting in judgment, expecting people to clean themselves up before they earn love or respect?
About halfway through the article something dawned on me. I had one of those moments when you can feel the presence of God almost as though He is physically sitting next to you. He reached into my brain and began to slowly and painfully peel back the layers of prejudice, self-righteousness, judgment and arrogance. As I continued to read, I began to see these people the way Jesus sees them. The more I read, the more of their world I explored, the more my heart broke. I sat in the middle of Starbucks reading an article about people that I have never met and probably will never meet and wept. I was so moved with love and compassion for these people that I couldn’t hold the emotions back. Here are people that Jesus bled and died for, and because they don’t fit into my mold, I’m ready to put the gloves on and go a few rounds instead of putting a towel around my waist and asking how I can serve them.
Since that day, I have still not met an actual atheist on whom to try out my new love and compassion. I noticed there is someone that answered the poll on my blog as being an atheist, but that is as close as I have gotten. But, God has given me multiple opportunities to live out this love He is teaching me to give freely. Sheri, my pastor’s wife, found a woman that needed some help providing a good Christmas for her family. She is a single mother with six kids. I have a wife to help me and only three kids and sometimes don’t think I can make it work, so my heart immediately went out to her. As a church, we adopted this family and our people blessed their socks off and back on again. But Sheri felt God calling us to something more. Mary, the mother we helped, lives in a cul-de-sac with five apartment buildings. In these apartments live people that need a personal encounter with Jesus. There are people that are beaten down by life. They are hurting and lonely. Basically, there are people who are just like the rest of us. We may be broken in different ways, but we are no less broken.
So we followed God’s leading and adopted an entire neighborhood. In the last two months, we have been four times to give away food, clothing, movies, toasters, books, video games and much more. We have taken meals to families. We have delivered beds, dishes, silverware and telephones. We have provided ears to listen and shoulders to cry on. Whatever needs are presented, we try to meet them. As we distribute the physical necessities, we have an opportunity to pass out some spiritual necessities as well.
I’m still waiting for an opportunity to show outrageous, Jesus kind of love to an atheist, but I’m not going to sit around and wait. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who it is because when we lavish that love on someone, we get to be Jesus with skin on.