The Religious Skeptic

“Hi Tomy. There are some missionaries here on island and I invited them to speak to the students this week. I hope that’s okay,” one of the faculty advisors for our high school group said to me.

Because the Caribbean has taught me a lot about flexibility, I didn’t consider it an issue. Instead I did my best to think through how we could best utilize our time with the students and after running through a few options, I decided to let the missionaries share whatever they felt God laid on their heart. What came next wasn’t what I was expecting.

Whereas most places suffer from having never heard the gospel, Cayman suffers from having heard it too much. As a result the challenge then becomes presenting the good news in unique ways that challenge the hearer actually wrestle with the offer Jesus is making. For nearly two years I’ve done my best to earn trust and be mindful of my context, being strategic.

But not these guys.

These guys spouted Scripture left and right. They prayed mid-sentence with eyes closed and outstretched arms, pronouncing the blessings of God while rebuking demons. They were the some of the strangest Christians I’d ever met. There even was an interpretive dance, which in theory isn’t weird but it was literally one woman and a couple of moves in front of a room of 16-17 year old students. Right when I thought it couldn’t get any weirder, they asked students to hug them if they wanted a hug from Jesus. I was done. I racked my brain for what to say to act as damage control when a student got up and gave them a hug. Then another got up. And then another – until each student received a hug from Jesus. One girl was even in tears. It was absolutely remarkable.

This past week I started reading Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ and in the first chapter she mentions that when she first came to faith she saw every Christian, regardless of denomination or background, as family. But as she continued to grow she began to develop frameworks for what Right Christians and Wrong Christians look like. She argues, both hilariously and poignantly, that this occurs as a result of belonging to a homogeneous group. The longer you exist in a particular group, the more convinced you are that your group knows what’s best.

Because I don’t come from a mystical tradition, I’m skeptical towards those who do. If I’m honest, I believe my way of following Jesus is the only way. But this week I’m challenged by the fact God is more inclusive than I am. Doesn’t God reserve the right to be bigger than my conceptions of who He is? Doesn’t Paul specifically warn us not to view one part of the body as less important than another? Is it not possible that there’s something to be learned from those who follow Jesus differently? The truth is I did learn something that day: more important than my strategy is the Holy Spirit – and they’re not always the same thing. As nice as reading books, attending seminars, and listening to sermons, nothing compares to sitting in the presence of God and allowing him to mold you.

That day they weren’t concerned about being cool or accepted, they were concerned with exemplifying the love of God no matter how awkward it may have been. They followed the Spirit and made the Father smile. And you know what? I could afford to be more like them.

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