I paused for a few seconds to gather my thoughts. I am used to being put on the spot (because of my vocation as a pastor), but what I really didn’t expect was when they asked me how these events relate to my faith. So I stumbled a bit with my words at the beginning, and then went on and said to the effect that Christians care about these issues (and I went on to share briefly my thoughts), but Christians also have diverse views and positions and do not all think alike. It shocked them when I said that.
I then went on to explain that not all Christians hold the same view on contemporary topics and we were given a mind by God to learn and make decisions to the best of our abilities and in response to our unique circumstances. This seems to have struck a lightening bolt in them. They were shocked to learn that Christians are people who can think critically, just like the rest of them.
The more I reflect on the incident, the more I realized the importance for Christians to engage in this sort of exchanges with our non-believing neighbors and coworkers. Dialogues of this kind are crucial, because as Christians who are a part of a civic society, we need to listen to each other. We cannot truly care for and love our neighbors until we truly hear their deepest thoughts, yearnings, and fears. The longer we have been a Christian, the fewer non-Christian friends we have. It makes this kind of conversation all the more important. On the other end, our non-believing friends cannot truly hear how our yearnings and hopes and dreams are shaped by our faith until we dialogue (sometimes these conversations caused us to think deeper about our faith). They may have certain misconceptions about Christians and Christianity that need to be cleared away through dialogue before they can further investigate the validity of the Christian faith. The starting point of many conversion experiences, in my estimation, is a simple, honest conversation people have with a believer about any random subject. I will also submit that we need to engage in this kind of conversations with open-mindedness, humility, and civility. We need open-mindedness because if all truths are God’s truths (Phil 4:8), there are truths we can learn from them. We need humility because Christ also examplified humility (with authority but never proud) in his dialogues with religious leaders and skeptics. We need civility because it is basic to our Christian witness but often are not perceived as being lived out by us.
God’s intention for the believers is that our mind and our intellect will be transformed through continual renewal after we have become a believer (Romans 12:2). Paul chose to use the word nous, the Greek word for “human mind”, “intellect” to highlight the importance of developing our Christian mind through dialogues like these after we have become believers.
My encouragement to you this week would be to engage in conversations with people in your context with open-mindedness, humility, and civility. As a church, we want to equip you to be a better witness for Christ wherever you are. In the last week of April, FCC will sponsor a Christian Mind series featuring three workshops titled “Why C.S. Lewis is as Influential as Ever?” by David Theroux, “How to Reconcile Faith and Science?” by Paul Ashby and Joey Chapdelaine, and “Meaning in the Midst of Suffering” by Catherine Creighton. Stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, let’s continue to engage in dialogues with our neighbors and be attentive to the guidance and nurture of the Holy Spirit.