Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-21

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16, NLT)

imagesBack in March of 2014, a Christian film went mainstream and was shown in theaters across the country. The film was called “God’s Not Dead” and chronicled the struggle of a student in college whose philosophy professor asks him and his classmates to write, “God is Dead” on a piece of paper and sign it. Doing so, according to the professor, would get the kids out of having to dredge through the boring nonsense that is the philosophical “proofs” of God and get into the more interesting schools of philosophical thought. Of course, this professor is an antitheist and is a little more than just biased against any and all religious beliefs. An antitheist, for those who don’t know, are atheists who  believe that religion is the cause of the world’s problems, who despise religion, and who seek to “edcuate” people that religion is faulty, prehistoric superstition that needs to be eradicated!

Honestly, I was not all that enthralled with the movie, though as a philosopher I dug the academic debate the film centered on. Still, in a world where Christians are being put to death for being Christian, in a world where millions of Christians are displaced refugees because of radical governments and religious zealots, in a world where such Christian persecution exists, a student’s struggle against an extreme professor seemed a little contrived and, well, superficial. For fans of the movie, hold off on the dislike button, because I’m not done yet.

Just recently a student I know was in a science class learning about the theory of evolution. During that class, the teacher made a comment that religious people don’t believe in evolution because they choose to believe in a God that created everything as it is. Feeling that the comment was a denigration to her both as a Christian and as an intelligent student, she raised her hand and spoke up, stating that the teacher’s comment was untrue. “I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that God created the world, and I have no problem with the theory of evolution. Can’t God create a world that evolves on its own without needing a puppet master pulling the strings?” She also let that teacher know that what he was doing was stereotyping her and other religious people, which in her words, “was not cool.”

This student did not lose composure, but remained respectful yet firm in her convictions and that teacher, realizing she was right, acknowledged her point and moved on with the lesson. Despite my gut reaction to “God’s Not Dead” and the theological issues I believe are inherent in that film, there is a truth that Christians are living in an increasingly polarized society that often doesn’t look kindly on religion or faith. In fact, Christians aren’t the only ones who face this, but people of all religions do.

What is important for me to stress here is that this is not a “battlecry” for Christians to rise up and take back what is “rightfully theirs.” If we read the Gospels, and the New Testament as a whole, we quickly realize that the world has NEVER been “rightfully ours.” We live in this world, but we are not of it; rather, we are ambassadors who represent Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, and we are not called to battle the world in a match of wits, or in senseless debates over who has the truth and who follows the fiction. With that said, we are called to represent the realm and the reign of God and to shine Christ’s light into this world of darkness. That is the heart of what the college student in “God’s Not Dead” was doing, and that is the heart of what the student I know was doing. She was not trying to put him down, or enter into a battle of the wits in order to disgrace him; rather, she was was shining a light on the truth of her faith and, perhaps, encouraging other people of faith in the room along the way. As Christians, Christ has called us all to lovingly stand up for the truth and be witnesses of the hope of God’s presence with us, regardless of what the world does or does not think of it. Remember that we live in this world, but we are not of it. May Christ give us all strength.

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” – John F. Kennedy

Lord, help me to have the courage to represent Christ and to do so in a way that is honest, bold, loving, and tolerant. Amen.

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