Growing up in church, I was taught that the word “apologetics” can be defined as “in defense of the Christian faith.” It’s all those things we say or point to which can prove our faith in Jesus to be valid, or reasonable. Things like archeological discoveries backing up the story of a biblical account. Or theological and philosophical arguments that lead us to conclude Jesus as Lord. The existence of apologetic debate implies that there are two sides to the argument, and in every argument there is usually someone on the defense. I believe that, in many ways, we Christians have been the ones being defensive.
The ceiling in my bedroom is white. I am confident of that. The can which the paint came in was labeled as “white.” The brushes that spread the paint turned white when they touched it. This is not something to argue. If tomorrow you visited me, came to my door and I invited you in, I would not exasperate myself, insisting on showing you the ceiling and convincing you how white the ceiling is. You would just know by looking at it. Now, if you came in and insisted the ceiling were red, we would have your eyes checked. Society has set standards for absolute truth, at least in these things. White is white. Red is red. School children are screened for colorblindness because some things are not subjective, and those who cannot see the obvious clearly are labeled as blind. And we pity the blind. We don’t yell at them for not seeing.
I used to argue so many things. My stepfather was once on the SWAT team, and I would argue with him quite a bit. And I often won. And I enjoyed winning. There is a sense of satisfaction, coupled with an adrenaline rush, which comes with talking someone into concession. And if someone presents a conflicting point-of-view, we can get insulted, offended. How dare they not believe precisely what we do? He was an inactive Catholic, and I was a recently Holy Spirit-filled seventeen year old. The combination was explosive.
Looking back, I realize that so much of my arguing came from a place of insecurity. If I was unable to convert someone to my beliefs, did that mean I was a failure? Was I not smart enough, knowledgeable enough? I felt so much fear and anxiety, worried that if someone didn’t see God when and how I thought they should, they would be forever lost: perhaps accidentally being hit by a bus and sent to Hell because I didn’t talk them into belief. Whenever I could, I took it upon myself to defend my church, the Bible, and ultimately, God Himself.
But does God need defending? Jesus said about himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) He didn’t say, “I think I might be one way…” No, he was confident in who he was. God is not insecure. Look at the list. He calls Himself “the God who sanctifies”, “the God who provides”, “the God of peace”, “Almighty…” This doesn’t sound like someone who is unsure of themself.
And yet, how many of us have been guilty of acting as if we need to defend God? We are very careful to present only the best, thinking it makes Him look better. As if God needs a marketing scheme, a PR rep. We represent God on earth, so we had better be perfect. And the second we see an imperfection elsewhere we are quick to point it out, and argue it out.
Does God need us to be perfect in order for others to recognize His perfection? Does He become irritated when someone doesn’t see Him quite yet? Jesus healed the blind: He never got annoyed with them for being so. And sometimes it took more than one turn, but He waited it out.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Jesus led that blind man by the hand, walking with him a good distance. I wonder what their conversation was along the way. Was he impatient when the man stumbled, rolling his eyes? Or was Jesus understanding, helpful and confident knowing that eventually the man would see clearly? Did Jesus expect the blind man to keep up with him, or did Jesus slow down to the blind man’s pace?
I can’t help but wonder if we should apologize for apologetics. To defend the Christian faith, in a way, seems almost as silly as defending whether or not my ceiling is white. It’s just true. God has never been defensive, but we have. The impatient irritation we can feel when someone acts differently, thinks differently, doubts a belief…this is not in God’s character. That’s OUR character. Archeology, healthy debate, these things are all good and well, but true change in others is not inspired by explanation, but rather by example.We would do well to learn how to walk with the blind like Jesus did, confident knowing that our walking with them, and not our arguing, is the first step toward helping them see.
The funny thing is, Howard doesn’t know that right before reading this I just got done watching the movie Serendipity…which always challenges me on something specific. This was the icing on the cake. Great timing, friend.
James 2:14-26 is so relevant to all of our lives. I think its something that we often misconstrue. We get this picture that if we hand it and give it to God that it will be taken care of. (in a sense its true..) Then we go on living our lives still having that thing in the back of our head…