I want to introduce you to Mark and Sally, both of whom are atheists that I knew at M.I.T.
Mark was a third year undergraduate from California, studying Computer Science, and we met lifting weights. I was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Ask me about Him,” Mark asked and we started talking. He told me pretty quickly he was an atheist. When I asked him to describe what that meant to him, he said he denied the existence of God, he doesn’t pray, read the Bible, or go to church. The only thing he likes about Christianity is laughing at his friends who believe in that stuff, and arguing with them about the reliability of the Bible. He believes Christians are the weakest people alive because they use Christianity as a crutch to avoid the real world. And the more vocal they are about their religion, the more hypocritical they are. He also believes most Christians are insensitive, judgmental, anti-homosexual, and a negative influence in society.
Sally, a graduate student in Chemistry, reads the Bible regularly, but lives a lot like Mark. She has trouble balancing her checkbook, handling her divorced parents, and dealing with her live-in boyfriend – who is scared to death about marriage. Sally was raised in a Christian family that went to church and said they believed in the Bible. She used phrases like, “God told me” and “God is good” and would tell you she started following Jesus when she was ten at a church revival. After praying and crying a lot at the meeting, she tried to go back to school and live a life of purity and integrity. She held on to her belief in God for a few months, but soon slipped into her old way of life…a bad attitude, and habits she wasn’t proud of. She later told her mom and dad that she was pregnant by a boy in the youth group and they threw her out of the house. At 26, she was doing things she knew she shouldn’t. She said she was too busy to go to church or connect with Christians on campus. She prayed most nights – mostly that her boyfriend would become a Christian like she is. “If only he believed in Jesus, then he might want to marry me.”
If you asked her, Sally would say that “I know that my life doesn’t look like a Christian’s life should, but I do believe in God.” Isn’t that great? She believes in God but doesn’t live like He exists. Mark doesn’t believe in God and Sally does. Is there really any difference between them?
I have known Christian students who lived as if God did not exist. Many of them said they believed in God, BUT did not really know Him; they read the Bible but did not live according to it; they were still ashamed of their past; they were not sure God loved them; they did not believe in prayer answered by God; they did not think He is fair because many of their why questions were never answered; they would not forgive themselves or others; they still worried all the time; they still pursued happiness at any cost; they trusted more in their intellect; they would not share their faith (i.e., pray, give, and go); and they attended, but did not really serve His Church.
There is nothing wrong with having doubts, wrestling with hard questions, wondering if what we believe really matters, and facing the reality that it is a struggle to see our words and actions match our beliefs. Craig Groeschel wrote a book called The Christian Atheist, in which he argues many struggle with real Christianity. Craig stated in the intro that he is a recovering Christian Atheist, and that at age 25, he was a full time pastor and part-time follower of Jesus.
Think theologically. It is possible to overcome the inconsistencies between what we believe and how we live. Consider the costs. Be willing to read Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and do what it takes to live that way (His Spirit will help you). Following Jesus is not about getting your needs met, or even feeling like a comfortable spectator. Jesus calls us to a life of surrender where His Spirit will empower us to lead Kingdom honoring lives. Read Matthew 16:25-26, Galatians 2:20, Acts 20:24, and Philippians 3:8. Is that the kind of follower you want to be?
Love is a verb,