A friend of mine once told me a story about his trips to the coffee house to sit, read, and, on occasion, discuss Christianity. My friend didn’t go to debate, he was there because it was a comfortable place with nice chairs and room to spread out his books for study. The coffee house wasn’t a big chain with green aprons, but a locally-owned place with good crowds and a great vibe. He loved the place and got to know a few of the regulars. Everyone got along for the most part, and he had some lively debates.
That is, until one night, when another patron pulled him aside and told him to be careful. My friend and the patron had grown close, and the patron wanted to look out for him. There were grumblings among some of the others that my friend needed to “watch out.” This was, effectively, a threat.
Christians, more often than not, are not the instigators of another person’s feelings. We don’t cause someone to become angry at us, or to hate us, or to think we’re being judgmental. Often, the quiet Christian is harassed solely because they exist in the same space as the other person or people and are, well, being Christian.
“If I don’t cause the reaction, why does it happen? Are these people just hateful individuals?” Not at all. Instead, those responses are internal to that person. The feelings inside them well up and are driven out at the Christian, making them the target of all of the feelings.
So, then, one will ask, “What are the source of these feelings? These are not people that normally live lives of anger.” How can it be that seemingly passive or accepting people (read “tolerant”) become so vicious?
In the end, the answer is fairly simple for the Christian to understand, and folly to all others. They have the Law written on their hearts, as we all do. The very sight of Christians and Christian signs and symbols wrenches on their hearts and minds, and injects a feeling of guilt that bounces off of their hardened hearts and becomes hate as it leaves their lips. They don’t hate you, though, but rather they hate Christ and all that He is. They cannot stomach the thought of their sins, their breaking of the moral code of God, and they live in fear of the judgment that is theirs because of their sin. They are not even aware of it.
And the worst part of this reaction is that we do the same things to God. We, in our sinful lives, hate God. Our stomachs turn and our sinful hearts turn away. We strive to run from God as fast as we can.
“But, how can that be?” you say. “I go to church, read my Bible and pray, and I believe. How can I hate God?” The key difference between the believer and the unbeliever is faith. We have faith, given by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s Word. Because of that faith, the Holy Spirit turns us towards God and His Son Jesus Christ, and we are saved! By the power outside of ourselves, we are made right before God. We are because, as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
That’s the blessing of God’s power and the comfort of His merciful gift in Christ Jesus. We are able to live freely in our faith, and able to complete the works of God for the world around us.
The unbeliever doesn’t have that comfort. They don’t have the faith that saves them from the wretched guilt that eats their insides. Without the Word of God, they are not even able to give it a name. They just know that they hate that cross you wear, the Bible you carry, the worship music you listen to, or the book about your faith that you read. They cannot understand because they do not have the language that we receive in our faith.
We live in a world that doesn’t understand us. It doesn’t know Christ inherently. God is only revealed to us by God’s Word. This is why we must continue to speak it to the world. Whenever we can, whether it is the quiet lunch conversation with the grieving co-worker, the smiling message of gratefulness and thanks to the grocery store clerk, or the words of forgiveness and strength to our friends and family, we can speak the Word of God and the comfort that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord through our words and actions.
Maybe, next time the person who sees you at the coffee house will, instead of shouting at you, ask about the Bible you are reading.