We’re told that large numbers of Americans refuse to consider the claims of Christ because they believe churches are unloving or unscientific. For a long time, I didn’t really challenge that idea. There’s no doubt many Americans seem disinterested in the Christian Faith, and so I thought that reason might be as good as any. But quite recently, my experience has convinced me that’s a lie.
As a pastor, I spend several hours every week counseling, mentoring and advising people who are dealing with problems. To stay current, I devote additional time reading about counseling and listening to the experiences of others in the field. One of the recurring themes from all my experience and research is this: human beings naturally resist change- even when they are unhappy with their status quo.
One of the most common questions that counselors face goes something like this: “How can I get him/her to change?” The people who ask questions like this- and their number is legion– are usually inquiring about other troublesome adults. For example, imagine a young woman in a live-in relationship with a man who has no interest in marrying her. She loves him: he berates and humiliates her, and occasionally sleeps with other women. So having tried every weapon in her emotional arsenal, she finally comes to you for help. Tell her this man is obviously a tool; that she cannot change another adult; that she has no obligation to remain with him; that she should move on and look for a good man. Guess what she’ll say in reply? “I’ve thought of that, but I love him.”
The roadblock here is not that she’s so happy in this relationship that she cannot imagine ever being happier. To the contrary, she has come to you because she is very unhappy. The obstacle is that this painful situation has become familiar to her. She knows what to expect here and she’s fearful there’s nothing much better out there. She’d rather be an unhappy woman who has a guy at her side than roll the dice and aspire to a real man who has character and inner strength.
The same syndrome explains that majority of divorcees who jettison one marriage only to fall for someone with the same negative attitudes they just walked away from. Why would anyone abandon one troubled spouse only to pair off with a second partner remarkably like the first? The answer is simple: familiarity. The new love interest has a certain familiarity that feels comfortable- negative energy bubbling just below the surface.
I am convinced this is why so many secular men and women are unwilling to investigate the life of faith. They may well be frustrated with life, hungry for hope, desperate for answers, but it is fairly well known that Jesus Christ is about life change- not just going to heaven! Eternal Life does not lock us into familiar habits and bad attitudes forever. Rather, Christ comes to bring new values, new attitudes, along with a new heart. The joy of faith follows the power to make important changes!
So human beings who are reluctant to change reach for PC reasons to remain in the pain. It’s trendy to say “Churches are so mean,” even though I may never have experienced a ‘mean’ church- or any church at all. It sounds intellectual to reply, “Christians are unscientific,” even though the most scientific thought I ever had was how to sink that five ball in the corner pocket. But either excuse sounds better than saying, “Nah! I’m just too afraid to change.” People in counseling almost never utter statements like that, but you hear it in their answers and see it in their eyes.
So I’m done trying to convince unbelieving friends that most churches are really nice or that many cutting edge scientists are also devout followers of Christ. Their familiar but lame excuses are mostly convenient boilerplate. My strategy will be more simple now: first, show them the positive difference Christ makes in a life.Then challenge them to be brave and risk something for a change.
Lift up the Cross!