Written By Yosua Andreas, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
When I was a student, I met many people who rejected Jesus and did not want to go to church. When they shared their reasons with me, I did not know how to respond. But their views started me thinking more about God’s Word. I believe we need to understand them, and learn to be ready to explain and respond to their objections in the right way. Here are three things I used to hear:
People in church are weak and fearful
A friend of mine who used to attend church regularly told me why he stopped going. He said: “It is not fun to be friends with people in church. When you ask them to skip class, they say they can’t. When you ask them to hang out at night, they say, ‘not too late’. When you ask if they’re willing to work together during the examination, they say, ‘we should not do that’. They are so different from my current buddies who are a lot more courageous, who make me feel strong and courageous too. When I’m with my buddies, nobody looks down on me or disturbs me.”
For some time, I kept mulling over what he meant by “strong and courageous”. He seemed to mean crossing certain boundaries—like cheating at exams—was the sign of courage. But why must courage be associated with doing something you’re either not supposed to or that’s considered risky? Why is sticking to the rules or the norm deemed “weak” or even “cowardly”?
The Bible, tells us of “strong and courageous” people such as Paul and Stephen, who did not show their courage in a rebellious way. Rather, they lived abiding in God’s Word, regardless of the cost. They chose to control their speech and deeds, and to hold fast to their faith, even though it meant risking their lives for it.
If we, as Christians, truly desire to align our lives with the truth of God’s Word, we will need to learn to accept His ways. And that means listening to those who tell us “no” to what is not right and not useful. But if we expect people to pander to us and always say “yes” to what we want, then we will be dissatisfied.
People in church are hypocrites
“I don’t feel like going to church, the people there are hypocrites—even the pastor!” How often have you heard this? Unfortunately, it is a sad reality. We cannot deny that the church is not made up of perfect people, and that many Christians (including ourselves) live in a way that does not reflect our faith.
But if you think about it, aren’t hypocrites everywhere? Do we quit studying just because our friends are bad influences and our lecturers lazy? Of course we can always change schools, but is there any guarantee that other campuses will be free of such people? We will always meet difficult people, hypocrites, and those who don’t walk the talk.
While that is not an excuse for Christians to live up to what we profess, if our lives depend on what others around us do, we will always feel like giving up and withdrawing. What’s more important is that we have a clear purpose for why we do what we are doing. If our final goal as a student is to get a degree, for example, we will not quit studying just because we have problematic friends.
If we go to church with the full awareness that we are all sinners in need of God, and that we’re all on a spiritual journey together, we will be able to accept the faults of others more easily. But if we go with a self-righteous attitude and expect everyone in church to live perfect lives, we will be disillusioned.
People in church are illogical
A neighbor once told my mother that she believed that God does not exist and that Jesus is just a man. “If God exists, why am I poor and why do my children rebel?” she asked.
I believe that her argument is based on the premise that God cannot exist because evil and suffering exists. Let’s tackle the issue of existence first. There are many observers who would say that the existence of God is apparent. Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that all movements are dependent on a mover. He argued that behind every movement is a chain of events that brings about the movement that we see. And this chain of events leads back to something which moves but does not move itself. He called that the Prime Mover.
When we see a phone, do we believe that it exists randomly? Of course not. We know that someone made it through a certain process. In the same way, the existence of everything in this universe is in itself convincing proof of a creator, a prime mover—God Himself. The bible explicitly says this too in Romans 1:20.
But how does that explain the existence of suffering? Why doesn’t God seem to answer our prayers when crises happen? I found the answer in the book of Job. Satan tries to make Job doubt God for allowing him to suffer, but Job continues to believe that God owns his life, and trusts in the Lord even though he goes through problem after problem. Eventually, Job comes to a full understanding that God is the One who gives life and that He has authority over everything, even over our suffering.
An even more astounding and beautiful fact is that we have a God who knows exactly what we’re going through. Jesus Himself suffered, emotionally, mentally and physically, when He lived on this earth among mankind. And if we ever feel like God has abandoned us or is very distant, remember that Jesus has experienced that Himself when God turned His face away from Him as He hung on the cross.
Perhaps it’s time to have a big shift in our thinking. Only when we go to church with a hunger and thirst to know God and His righteousness, will we be satisfied by the Lord himself (Matthew 5:6). But, if we go to meet our own expectations, we will be disappointed.
Do you know people who have been disappointed by the church? What is the cause of their disappointment? Perhaps we can help point them back to God—presenting the truth, but in a loving, gentle manner.