The British author A. N. Wilson was an Oxford-educated writer who spent one-year training for the priesthood. But at 38-years-old he converted to atheism. His friends included former schoolmate Richard Dawkins and dinner companion Christopher Hitchens (both well-known and published atheists). During his years as an atheist, he produced many anti-Christian publications. Yet, at the age of 59-years-old, he returned to Christianity. Why? In 2009 Wilson wrote,
“My return to faith has surprised no one more than myself.… My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.”(1)
This atheist intellectual was persuaded of Christianity’s truthfulness through ordinary people’s lives in various cultural streams of life. Wilson’s testimony reminds us that when our faith impacts every arena of our lives, we can have an eternal impact on others.
“Do You Pray With Them?”
But how do we know when and how to share our faith with others? This can be a thorny issue.
For example, I was in a Sunday morning class at church with a highly-skilled physician who dealt with life and death situations every day. But on one occasion, I asked him if he ever shared the gospel or prayed with his patients. “No, I don’t,” was his unapologetic reply.
His answer didn’t surprise me. It is not uncommon for many people to keep their spiritual lives at church and in their family, distinct from their jobs, leisure activities, and community involvement. As in this doctor’s case, we can keep our knowledge of our beliefs separated from practically evangelizing or discipling others.
What about you? Do you see your spiritual life as distinct from other areas of your life? Do you behave as a Christian in comfortable or safe surroundings like home or church but ignore your beliefs in different settings (like your job)?
What Is “Culture,” Anyway?
Culture means a “particular way of life,” including tradition, beliefs, behaviors, values, and objects shared by a particular group (such as language, customs, clothing, and history).
A Christian worldview sees Jesus Christ as Lord of all. And that includes all areas of our lives. So Jesus’ followers can’t pick and choose what elements of our lives we will and will not express our faith. Every aspect of our lives relates in some way to our beliefs.
Being “Salt And Light”
To characterize Christians’ influence in the world, Jesus uses the metaphors “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16), implying we are to be distinctive and influential on our surroundings.
- Salt flavors and preserves food in the same way we are to promote goodness and hinder society’s corruption. But like flavorless salt, Christians who refuse to engage culture have lost their usefulness and distinctiveness.
- The light clears away the darkness, conquering gloom. It reveals what is hidden and guides the way. Jesus expects us to give spiritual light to this world rather than hiding from the world around us.
- Interestingly, salt and light bring about noticeable changes without being noticed themselves.
You may feel anxious or afraid of sharing your faith in different areas of your life in our polarized society (“You’re either on this side or that side”).
But, remember, many non-Christians may have little contact with genuine Christians. And over the years, I have learned that the best way to destroy my enemies is to make them my friends--even if it is challenging at times.
You often have to overcome their misconceptions, cynicism, and anger. But building genuine relationships is possible and worth it. It takes mutual respect that seeks to understand the other person’s beliefs in a courteous manner. Listen respectfully to their views, ask thoughtful questions, and find areas of shared agreement.
But with God’s help, we shouldn’t be afraid of meeting with non-Christians in any stream of culture [LINK to blog The 7 Streams of Cult Eng].
- Wilson, A. N. (2009). Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be called by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1169145/Religion-hatred-Why-longer-cowed-secular-zealots.html (accessed December 11, 2020).