Last month in Ukraine, Orthodox priests stood between soldiers armed with guns and protesters holding Molotov cocktails, boldly praying – and begging – for peace. They took a stand in freezing weather with weapons pointed at them and publicly asked God for help, because they believe it is that important to find peaceful resolution. (They’re risking their lives even though the government has threatened to ban these kinds of prayers.) Read about it here – the pictures are amazing.
Meanwhile, Christians in the United States were preparing to take center stage in a conflict of their own. Before a world-wide audience, the church was prepared to wrestle with a truly important issue:
“Exactly how old is the earth?”
The debate had the impact I expected. When faced with opposition to our convictions, it’s human nature to dig our heels in and stubbornly stick to our agenda. No one changes their minds after this sort of verbal sparring – they only find more reasons to fight. Debates always make people less open to new ideas, and debating religion does not help the skeptic to understand our beliefs.
Meanwhile, there are people in your town who don’t have food. There are clothes in your closet that you never wear and families a few blocks away who could use them. Times are rough on a lot of folks, and finding hope is never easy when bills can’t be paid. Not to mention, the trials of everyday life make it hard to believe in a loving God.
The church is equipped to help with these problems. We can feed and clothe our neighbors while we remind them of God’s grace. We can be a sympathetic ear for the person who has been laid off or a family for the lonely child who has no parents. Our music and preaching can help someone remember why they believed in God, in the first place. We can bring hope.
Or, we can argue about the age of the planet.
I’m not just talking about the well-known debates, because this is a problem that happens in small ways, too. Social media is drowning in religion vs. science arguments that never accomplish anything. I realize that some people use science to criticize the faith, but don’t respond to those attacks with angry words. Turn the other cheek, ignore the haters, and don’t respond with insults. Every ounce of energy and resources you spend squabbling over scientific scruples should be redirected toward helping your community.
Get out there and show people that Christianity isn’t about pointless debates, but a love that comes from God and the hope of what is to come.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)