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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2012

Faith Forum: What’s the right reaction when someone makes fun of your religious beliefs?

December 1, 2012

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Jeff Barclay, lead pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:

I don’t know if I ever laughed at the things I believe today about Jesus and the Bible, but I do know I didn’t always believe them.

So if making fun of my religious beliefs is someone’s way of asking questions, while simultaneously dealing with their own doubts and fears, then I invite anyone’s raucous musings.

I believe man bears the image of God. I also believe that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to be born as a man. His name was Jesus. He was crucified for my sins.

In confessing those things, I understand that I can be restored in my relationship with God.

In believing those things, I don’t become a better person than anyone else, but I do become a new person.

As those are extraordinary things to believe, I totally understand the laughter that a doubter might direct at me.

I don’t think the things I believe are funny, but I smilingly acknowledge that I am often a caricature, rather than a reflection of my beliefs. So sometimes I join in when people make fun of me or the things I believe.

Laughter certainly relieves the tension and possibly opens the door for real conversation because I take what I believe very seriously and enjoy talking about it.

While I think I can hold my own in a discussion about my beliefs, winning an argument about my beliefs is not the best way to convince someone to change theirs.

Laughter can reveal my misrepresentations or unveil another’s misperceptions. Often people are laughing at something that has never been explained to them.

Jesus Christ, the One in whom I believe, managed well the contradictions of laughter. It would be foolishly funny for me to think I could avoid the mocking that He could not.

— Send email to Jeff Barclay at jeff@ccclawrence.org.

The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:

In this world, you will have tribulation: If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; Don’t be surprised if the world hates you; All will hate you because of Me.

Jesus promised His followers these hardships, the lightest of which involves ridicule. Jesus turned self-centered logic on its head, claiming, “Blessed are you when people hate, exclude, and revile you, spurning your name as evil on account of Me!”

In a profound sense, it is normal when Christians are mocked for their faith. Some biblical perspectives under trials: Christ Himself is close to us in these times; we go to Him outside the camp, in those places of shame. When we find His comfort, we pass it on, encouraging those who suffer in deeper ways.

Nov. 11 was the “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.” Some 100 million Christians suffer today, far more than teasing, for publicly identifying with Christ.

Those of us who are not being persecuted physically must “remember their chains.” Anger toward critics is sinful and unproductive.

The Bible describes the unbelieving state as a blindness, a deadness of heart, being entrapped by the great enemy.

It is God’s work to make the blind see, create a beating heart of flesh and set captives free. We rejoice to be agents of His change, vessels in God’s merciful hands.

To be ready for these encounters, we study His truth, prepare to make an “apologia,” lovingly “tear down [false] strongholds” in the gracious spirit of Jesus.

One of Christianity’s greatest foes, Pharisee Saul, became its great champion, the Apostle Paul. Through the Gospel’s transforming power, that story repeats itself around the world, even today.

Simply, “right reaction” includes prayer, rejoicing, love and words of grace. May God do in you what He’s done in me!

— Send email to John McFarland at JMMLawrence@aol.com.

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