Jesus for Atheists

Not everyone believes in God. There is a wide variety of reasons why they don't believe from the existence of a supernatural deity being illogical to the way so-called Christians have treated them in the past. I get that and I resonate with all of it. The problem is, offering God to people is my job. I love my job and I love Jesus which means a lot of people think I'm weird. I get that. (My family thinks I'm weird too, but for completely different reasons.) I even have friends from earlier days who are adamantly opposed to religion in all its forms as something harmful to humanity, but I am grateful that they still like me for some reason. Maybe it's because I have resisted the temptation to debate them point by point. I haven't tried to prove that I am right by emphasizing that they are wrong, but I don't hide my relationship with Jesus either. I just try to treat them with kindness and respect because God is God whether we believe or not. As Mother Abigail says in Stephen King’s “The Stand” “It doesn't matter if you don't believe in God. God believes in you.” While that quote warms the heart of a lifetime believer like me, it does little to convince my non-believing friends. Yet, I still think we are on the same page in many ways. We have a lot in common. We can agree that racists and Nazis are bad to have around. We can agree that the weak often need to be defended from the powerful. We can agree that the poor and vulnerable sometimes need help and every person has the right to be treated with dignity. We can agree that honesty and integrity are better than deceit and compassion is preferable to hostility and selfishness. We certainly agree that killing people in order to solve our conflicts is as bad for people on street corners as it is for soldiers on the battlefield. If you grab onto these things as worthy of pursuing you may not realize that Jesus is grabbing onto these things too. I'd like people to know that.

We are not as far apart as it might seem, which is why I still talk to everybody about Jesus. I truly believe folks would like him if they got to know him. Even if they can't swallow the supernatural God thing, most people can get behind his mission. We all want a better world, don't we? We are on the same side and in many ways are moving in the same direction. Let's work together. A lot of people have the wrong idea about his work. He didn't care about belittling sinners and reinforcing rules. He made friends with the friendless and helped people in need. He believed that a better world is possible and it begins with better people. He showed us that our minds can change. Our hearts can change. Our character can improve. He wasn't trying to help us escape earth to be pampered in heaven but is enlisting us to help bring the beauty of heaven to earth. It might sound like a utopian pipe dream, but he believed in it enough to give his life for it. And even if you can't believe he was raised from the dead, you can see with your own eyes that he has made a life and death difference in the lives of real people whose lives are finally worth living.

If you were to make a list of all the things that are wrong with this world, it would probably be a match for many of the things Jesus came to do. Jesus demanded peace, nonviolence, and compassion. He insisted that we learn to love our enemies rather than fight back. He believed in humbling ourselves enough to make other people a priority. We feed the poor, heal the sick, look out for those who are unable to take care of themselves, insist upon justice while offering the mercy to treat others better than they deserve. He taught us love, patience, gentleness, generosity and self control. These are good things. Most people would agree with that.

I am convinced of this:

“Even if there was no God, and Jesus was just a regular guy, the way of life he advocates would heal the world on its own if more people gave it a try.”

This “better world” is our mission as the Church as well, though you wouldn't know it by observing many congregations. Our mission goes way beyond caring for people and righting wrongs. We believe this better world will last forever and we can too. We believe in the eternal dimension of things which is why prayer and worship and salvation are so important to us. We are taught that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Just because we struggle with the fully divine part doesn't mean we can't make friends with the fully human part and join him in his work of making the world a better place. Let's be better people. Lets make a better world. Who knows, maybe the possibility of the divine will seem less crazy after working together with Jesus for a while. But even if not, the worst that can happen is we just might enjoy a better world.


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