Speaking of faith. . .
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." - 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Today I had the privilege of participating, for the second year in a row, in a sixth-grade humanities class' weeklong study of world religions. I and a Roman Catholic friend had the opportunity to present on Christianity and to field questions from the kids. Both times I have participated in this have been wonderful and I really appreciate the teacher, Ms. Filanoski's, effort and interest in exposing her class to these various belief systems. I especially appreciate that, whenever possible, she tries to let those who actually believe these things do the speaking. As can be expected, Andrew and I tended to be long-winded in our answers. I can only hope that we were able to communicate well. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit used our words to help these kids get a clear and faithful picture of the Christian faith.
What I came away with today, personally, was the question: How equipped are we, really, to discuss our faith with those who don't know Jesus? As Christians we can tend to focus our interactions with those who already hold our views. In time we develop our own jargon and discuss the things of the faith without every stopping to explain, or even think about, some of the language we are using. I noticed this some with my friend Andrew and I today. As I listened to Andrew answer questions I wondered, Are the kids going to really catch what he just said there? I have to assume that he felt the same way listening to me. At times, when my answers had to overlap or address things of the Roman Catholic faith, I wondered how clear and fair I was being toward Andrew's beliefs. As it turns out, even my understanding of Catholicism is largely drawn from how evangelicals like myself understand it.
Some of this is unavoidable, of course. The church has a culture like any other group. We have our own language and key phrases. We have our own perspective on things. There are "insiders" and "outsiders" to the Christian faith just as there are to any group of people. The main biblical metaphor for the church is that of a family - and anyone who has ever been the guest at the house of a large family knows what it means to be a (welcomed and loved, hopefully) outsider!
As a convinced evangelical I am, of course, going to understand my own beliefs better than those of someone else. None of this means that I think truth is relativistic, or that my own ignorance of another religion or another stream of Christianity means my own faith is uncertain or my claims to truth are invalid. But it does remind me that I don't know the people around me the way I could. It reminds me how few conversations about ultimate things I have with people outside of my own little tribe. It shows me how little I really "bring Jesus up" with my neighbors. If I don't know what they think, and I don't really know how to explain what I think, then clearly it's a good time for me to start some conversations. How about you?