Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken the time to discuss the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Cases” and examined a few reasons (legitimate and otherwise) that a person might adamantly object to Christ and vehemently oppose those who follow Him. We’ve taken a deeper look at what constitutes a “Hard Core” personality (those who simply will not under any circumstance consider the Christian viewpoint) and discussed some ways to handle the adversarial situations which may arise when we encounter such a person. This week, we’ll be breaking down the types of “Hard Cases” (those persons who object to Christianity on intellectual or moral grounds) in order to better understand what drives others to believe that there are rational grounds for rejecting the Gospel message.
All of us, at one time or another, have encountered someone who appeared deeply opposed to our faith and, perhaps, even to us, but who upon further examination was merely an honest skeptic with genuine questions. While such people may express themselves aggressively, their adamant tones and forthright attacks are usually rooted in deeper objections to a faith which they believe fails to promote rational thinking and tolerance of (or at least civility towards) divergent lifestyles and other systems of belief. (And, if we’re honest, a quick glance at the evening news would seem to confirm this!) Most times, such people are reacting to an overall perception of the faith rather than to individual adherents. Overcoming their objections begins with our own willingness to patiently persevere as we walk in the steps of Christ. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Don’t Be a Pushy Christian. If you approach others with the attitude of a gun-slinger hoping to add another notch to the pearl handle of his revolver, it should come as no surprise that others pull their own weapons when they see you coming! Dealing with “Hard Case” personalities requires a bit of gentleness and finesse and a willingness to put the guns away. The goal here isn’t to win a debate, but to demonstrate Christianity and the life of Christ in such a way that those who object to the faith begin to ask why you don’t mesh with their perceptions of it. Begin by living what you believe, not by preaching it.
Learn to Ask Questions. More than once, I’ve met someone who came to faith in Christ not because someone explicitly shared the Gospel message, but because someone knew the right questions to ask to peak their curiosity about that Gospel. Genuine skeptics are like hunters: set a meal before them and they feel deprived. Give them a chance to seek the prey for themselves and they experience an unparalleled fulfillment which climaxes in (you guessed it) the same meal. For many, the thrill of the investigation and the joy of seeking information for themselves is a driving force. So encourage it. Ask the hard questions, the “why” questions, then (unless they specifically ask for your input) leave your friend to their own devices! Remember that Jesus said:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8)
No one who truly seeks God will fail to come to an explicit faith in Jesus Christ. God might just have placed you in this person’s life to help them turn on the “seek” switch.
Be Patient. It’s easy to think that when our friend, family member, co-worker, or classmate walks away, the encounter is over… but nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, in a spiritual sense, the end of the discussion is just the beginning of the battle. Failing to recognize this can result in our missing some tremendous opportunities to affect lives for Christ!
When it comes to a “Hard Case” personality, patience is often the key. The truth is, most adults, particularly those already deeply entrenched in a particular system of belief (whether they recognize it as such or not), take time to come to a realization that Jesus is Who He claimed to be. Many Muslims must hear the simple gospel message more than 100 times before they even understand it, let alone believe it. I corresponded regularly with a Jewish Rabbi for five years before he was even willing to accept that Christianity wasn’t inherently anti-Semitic… and we hadn’t begun to work on the idea of Salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone! Those who have genuine objections to Christianity usually have good reasons for those objections and it takes time and commitment to overcome them.
Be Ready. Don’t run from a situation just because it seems difficult. The honest truth is the people who fight the hardest are often the ones God is closest to bringing into His Kingdom. When the enemy gets aggressive, it’s because he’s about to lose possession of a soul and he wants you to quit! Instead of backing down, put on the full armor of God and stand.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Skeptics aren’t our enemies and should never be treated as though they are. Their questions force us to question our own beliefs and consider whether they are, indeed, consistent with Scripture, with logic, and with the manner in which we live our lives. Our willingness to openly hear their questions and carefully respond to them (even if our best response is, “I don’t know, but I will find out”), makes all the difference in the world!