When Others Don’t Understand Our Faith

Hi, friends. Have you ever had a “discussion” with someone where you seemed to be talking past each other, neither person listening or even caring about what the other is saying? I recently noticed a detail about Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of John that relates to this topic.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus travels, teaches, heals, and fellowships. He does not go around boasting of His being the son of God; rather, He often replies enigmatically to the skeptical Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes when they directly ask about it. Jesus knew that He had a mission to fulfill before the prophecy of His death and resurrection was fulfilled.

The Jewish leaders hated Him because He was performing miracles and gaining followers. They viewed Him as a blasphemous nuisance. When the leaders reached the point of officially convicting Him for blasphemy, Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, betrayed Him to the authorities for a bribe.

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The Romans who ruled Israel only cared about their tax money; they didn’t know why Jesus was being crucified. Pontius Pilate, the Roman who sent Jesus to execution, thought the man seemed innocent; when the Israelites insisted on His death, Pilate washed his hands of Jesus’ blood.

I recently made a darkly humorous observation: the Romans adorned Jesus’ limp body with a sign reading “King of the Jews,” but the chief priests were angered and wanted the sign changed to “This man said, ‘I am King of the Jews.'” That request was refused. (John 19)

How ironic–Jesus was convicted to a death sentence for calling Himself the son of God–yet the sign hanging on Him when He died essentially read “I am the son of God.”

The Romans carrying out the crucifixions were completely oblivious to the situation at hand, evidenced by the miscommunication. An analogy came to mind between the Romans here vs. some non-believers.

I see memes and comments that severely mischaracterize Christianity. “If you need to believe in heaven to be a good person, you’re a bad person.” “It’s hard to be an atheist–we don’t have the devil to blame everything on.” “Religion wants people to feel worthless.”

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Should I bother to explain that being a Christian is as much about now as the future? Or that following in the footsteps of Jesus and living in the Holy Spirit while trusting God is so hard that it’s impossible to do without screwing up? Or that humility isn’t self-doubt–it’s knowing that, though we are all sinners, God loves us unconditionally?

[I acknowledge some very valid criticisms of some modern Christians/the modern church, but some criticisms come from ignorance/slander/resentment, in my opinion.]

Sometimes, we encounter people who don’t understand us and don’t want to–people who are so wrong about us, we don’t know where to begin. I don’t go out of my way to discuss my faith with people who openly resent it; I’d rather avoid the argument and pray that, whether they acknowledge the source or not, God will bring them joy and peace.

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Just remember…

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

Thanks for reading! God bless you!

35 comments

    1. Hi, Alisa. Thanks for commenting and providing an opportunity for clarification. I said that the Jewish leaders viewed Jesus as “blasphemous” because, as you say, the establishment would certainly be angered by a rabbi (teacher) who gains a following because some people believe that he is the actual son of God.

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      1. And I should in turn clarify that the establishment in that era was the ruling Roman authority. To quote:

        “Rome took no chances when it came to the potential for uprisings. When an individual’s or a group’s actions seemed even possibly seditious, any perceived threat was put down with decisive state-sanctioned violence. Rome crucified hundreds, if not thousands of people — mostly slaves and suspected revolutionaries — and used military force routinely in the provinces.

        Since Jesus died by crucifixion, we know that he was killed by the Roman authorities (Jewish authorities did not practice crucifixion). And while Jesus did not exercise conventional kinds of political authority, his actions and his message included threats to the status quo.

        Chief among his threatening actions, Jesus could draw a crowd. The gospels report that great crowds followed him. When he entered Jerusalem during the last week of his life, he entered to local fanfare. The popularity of Jesus, combined with the gathering perhaps hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Jerusalem for Passover, would have made Roman authorities very nervous.”

        All in all, a fascinating topic that’s still debated today!

        Liked by 2 people

  1. What’s worse is when others of our same faith tradition don’t understand our expression of faith. I’m currently dealing with this from more Progressive Christians in my COS classes this week. I’m willing to try and understand and listen but they just want to win the argument. It’s very frustrating

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  2. Since Christianity grew out of Judaism, it’s especially interesting to look at how much of the Old Testament has been historically documented. For anyone who’s never read (or seen on PBS) Simon Schama’s History of the Jews, it’s a riveting look at ancient times and beliefs.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Beautiful post. Yes, I agree that often it is futile to discuss Christianity and/or the existence of God with those who are not open to the possibility or with those who just want to argue. I have no appetite to engage in a philosophical/intellectual tug of war about my Savior . Nor do I care to engage in hair splitting or nit picking theological debates with fellow Christians. I need to be fed spiritually and, in some cases, hopefully I can offer spiritual substance to those in need. Tireless posturing and debate is unappetizing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like the phrases “philosophical/intellectual tug of war” and “tireless posturing” because they allude to how spiritually drained one can feel after a long, tense, hostile debate over the most intimate part of our being, our faith. I’m choosing my battles carefully nowadays; kind and productive conversations only!

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  4. Great stuff Lily! To the meme about needing Heaven I would just say YES, I am a bad person. A lot of my conversations boil down to sinful people needing forgiveness from a loving God. I’m not trying to be good, God’s Spirit in me will develop fruit. Christianity is about salvation in Christ.

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    1. Great point that it’s not about “trying to be good,” it’s about being humble, repenting, and allowing the Holy Spirit into our hearts who emboldens us to be good! The statement in that meme speaks to a misunderstanding what salvation in Christ is.

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  5. God has taught me to listen to people’s criticism despite it being harsh to easy. A lot of times I find people are speaking from pain. Many people once were believers but fell away, and from what I’ve seen it’s because they were around hypocritical believers who proclaimed to be Christ-like, but were anything like Christ. It is hard for people to understand. One thing Christ has taught me about humility is that it is always going deeper with those who struggle with us. He’s opened many doors of discussion this way. When people realize I have no stones or no arrows to fight with. 🙂 I just want to talk and Christ is naturally part of my life. No pressure. No force. People can get as defensive as they want, but I’ve noticed it looks really silly when we’re not defensive or angry. When we acknowledge why they say what they do. You’re right they may be COMPLETELY wrong about Christ or certain things. A lot of times that’s because they’ve seen things from fallen believers who are deceived and do not know it.

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    1. Unfortunately, it’s so true that Christians have done as much damage to the faith as anyone. On the one hand, no one is perfect, so we will all be hypocrites sometimes. On the other hand, if I claim to be a Christian, I should be humble because I know Jesus was sacrificed for me, a sinner, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit should be apparent in my life. I love your attitude. You are being a peacemaker. Love is a truly amazing force, and you are using it to slowly mend fences. “Love covers a multitude of sins”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ❤ ❤ Thanks, Lily!!

        I completely agree too, no one is perfect, but I think unfortunately many struggle to cling to that as an excuse. It says a lot to our enemies to admit when we are truly wrong, and not be guarded about it. Thank you so much for your words, Lily, they have encouraged me!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are so right about admitting when we are wrong or even just apologizing on behalf of other Christians who misrepresented the faith. Humility and forgiveness are variations of love that can transform situations.

        You’re welcome, T.R.! You are an inspiring disciple. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Lily! I’m confused about this part: “Or that following in the footsteps of Jesus and living in the Holy Spirit while trusting God is so hard that it’s impossible to do without screwing up?” To me, that says you believe it’s impossible to live without sin. Is this indeed what you believe, or am I misunderstanding?

    As a non-believer, I’m sad you would prefer not to speak of your beliefs with people who don’t share them. I know you said argue, but it doesn’t seem like a word that works when discussing faith or the lack thereof since neither side is presenting a provable stance. It’s more a case of people who listen to ideas they don’t necessarily share, and people who choose to plug their ears and say la la la loudly, perhaps?

    Christianity is confusing. Different branches deny all other faiths, yet they all call themselves Christians. The lack of unity is disturbing in light of the mentioned denials to a non-believer. I watched my oldest sister, devout Christian, make rude comments about Catholics right in front of my Catholic friend, who responded by stating her status. My sister seemed embarrassed. It was the first time I ever witnessed my sister do anything I firmly believe Jesus would not have done. It stunned me.

    It wasn’t that I thought she was incapable of sinning. What upset me was the hatred behind her words. She spoke of Catholics as if they were some known pariah in society, and therefore, deserved such vile regard. It disturbed me to realize the sister I always sincerely regarded as “loving as a way of life,” wasn’t who I thought. I love her; she’s my sister. She’s also a person who chooses to hate others because their religion doesn’t match her own. It makes me sad, and I don’t understand.

    I reject organized religion because of the universal hate and intolerance for those who don’t believe or believe otherwise. I want more information, nevertheless. When I encounter an openly Christian person, I usually suspect they know something I don’t, and it might be why they believe, and I don’t. Listening doesn’t harm and can lead to wisdom. I don’t listen when the topic is about hating this group or that group. It’s not hard to recognize people who are striving to be like Jesus. I spot them all over the place. I’ve learned a lot by listening to religious people talk about things with which non-believers struggle. (The Book of Job, for example.)

    (This is long, I’m sorry.) Just want you to know you’re not always casting pearls before swine when you speak up and share about your faith. 💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Alison! Thank you for commenting with another perspective.

      Based on New Testament scripture, I do not believe that anyone is without sin. Sin is the great equalizer. I’m a sinner; you’re a sinner; the murderer in prison is a sinner; the owner of the non-profit orphanage is a sinner; etc. In my opinion, that very lack of humility fuels too many Christians into acting holier-than-thou; they seem to be missing the point.

      I’m game for productive conversations. I’ve just seen and been part of enough unproductive conversations to feel more wary about choosing my battles nowadays. It amazes me to read all the replies on a single tweet and think how much time people will invest into spewing poison at each other. Thank goodness WordPress is less toxic than popular social media.

      Based on scripture, I believe that spewing hateful judgement about people is a sin, so I can’t justify being rude to Catholics. I will say that there are quite a few differences with Catholics vs. almost every other denomination, and differences often lead to fear and judgement. I don’t look down on Catholics, but I do not agree with some of their traditions and beliefs. For example, I don’t know why Jesus’ mother Mary plays a role in their prayers; I just pray to God in the name of Jesus. There’s been much corruption in the Catholic church over the centuries–everything that led to Protestantism in the first place, covering up for priests who molest children more recently–so that also fuels a lot of judgement. It makes me sad to see individuals condemn entire denominations. At the end of the day, a relationship between a person and God is so intimate and individual that we can’t know what is happening in a person’s heart, and even if we did know, it’s not our place to judge.

      The word “love” is used sooo many times in the New Testament. The world desperately needs more love so we can relate to each other, have meaningful conversations, and work towards peace. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Lily. I understand confidently, now. 🙃 I’m all in for more love in the world. My sister is also my godmother. I’ve always assumed it means I should watch her example. So I do. It’s rare (she was a mother when I was born,) but sometimes she teaches me things I know not to copy. I get that sinking feeling that screams *wrong*. I can’t just blindly copy her example because of what you clarified. (But I pay attention because she’s my godmother, and I still think it means she’ll teach me if I pay attention.) 💜 ✌🏽

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  7. OK, somone has to ask this….

    While I can appreciate not wanting to endlessly argue, i gotta admit, when i saw the passage you listed from 1st Corinthians at the end…..immediately, the thought came to me:

    Has she read even ONE Apologetics or “Defending the Faith” type of book at all? Do you tell people what convinces you of your beliefs? Or, do you avoid that and simply “pray for them”?

    Can you answer the tough question skeptics ask? Can you prove wrong anything they bring up? Even some things? Are you embaressed that you don”t gave good comebacks?

    Or do you?
    Have you heard of Norm Geisler? Paul Little? Elmer Towns? N.T. Wright? Greg Boyd? Mike Licona?
    People don’t read enough these days.
    They don’t challenge the TV preachers, or the Mega-churches, or even their own pastors, enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you look through my blog posts, you will see that I am a reader. Funny enough, a group at our church is currently studying Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. I wouldn’t assume that people who don’t care for endless Twitter wars are uneducated; in fact, I’d assert that discretion is actually a mark of intelligence. I do agree that people do not question their own religion too often. Thanks for the book recommendations.

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