I have recently been venturing into unfamiliar territory; an atheist blog. I followed a link to an interesting looking post on the site. The post was about Jesus and indeed presented an out of the ordinary perspective. So I decided to submit a comment, where I made it clear I am Christian. I didn’t disagree with the assertions of the author; I just made an observation about Jesus’ purpose while on earth. Thus began a thread which has now exceeded 26 comments.
I seemed to become a target for the other readers of the atheist blog. Even though these readers know nothing about me, other than I’m a Christian, some of them proceeded to accuse me of being dishonest, insincere, gullible (they may be right with this one), a lair, and a slippery fellow.
My initial urge was to lash back at them. It would have been easy, since as it seemed to me, their arguments, statements and claims were illogical, and full of holes. But thanks to Jesus and His presence in my life, I resisted the temptation. I also found help in a new little phase I came across on another blog: What Would Jesus Have Me Do? (find it here)
The comment thread then became a learning experience for me; a lesson in patience, humility, and anger management. And I learned a lot about myself. For example…
The other people on the comment thread, who were so tempting me to verbally explode – I was once a lot like them. For about ten years of my life, I was an atheist, though I never considered myself a “radical” atheist. Yet I found myself uncomfortable around Christians. I was afraid they might try to convert me. I also held a low opinion of Christians; they appeared weak to me. I basically thought they were all weird.
Consequently, a shock came to me as I read the harsh and uncivil remarks directed at me and my comments; I grew to easily see myself making the same remarks, back when I shared their beliefs. I used to be as insensitive as they appeared to be. In fact, I might have been worse, for all of them seemed rather intelligent by how well they wrote, and they utilized words very cleverly. I believe I would have been clumsier with my words, and therefore harsher still in spewing venom towards my target.
In the course of the comment thread, I frequently went to my bible, looking for guidance, and this is what I found:
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matthew 5:11)
I found it actually easy to sincerely care for my enemies, once I realized I had once been one of them. Maybe we cannot always see ourselves in our enemies, but we should be able to find some reason to love and pray for them. And if for no other reason, than do it for yourself; for you will be blessed.
What is the benefit of not fighting back, yet accepting the persecution? What is the benefit of sincerely caring for our enemies? I see two: I know that I felt better and more at peace than I would have if I had lashed out. I also know that I was a better representative for Jesus. One of my prayers throughout the experience was that the readers of the atheist blog would not see in me, an ugly Christian. I wanted them to see Jesus, through me. And I wanted to do it without preaching.
Only God knows how well I held up in the unfamiliar territory. But I know I’m better for the experience. And perhaps God was glorified.