Monday, March 30, 2015

YOUTH: Defend Your Faith??

"Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God's word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This Holy Week, as we watch Jesus not defend himself in order to fulfill God's promise, somebody asked me a question about defending our faith and teaching our children to do the same. I've also had parents tell me that what their kids really need is to be able to defend their faith to other kids. To this, I can only respond, "No, no, we don't,"

Defend It?

Who was it that came up with the idea that faith needed to be defended? Trying to defend something as intangible as faith to those who will not believe is a futile effort. They will not be convinced by any logical argument. Faith, by definition, is not logical. It is given by the Holy Spirit when God deems it. Some have cited 1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV as it says:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
But what about the rest of the sentence? It says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." The reason for the hope that I have is Jesus Christ. He needs no defender. He needs no defense. He certainly does not need us to convince people that we're not crazy for what we believe or that it is logical and makes sense. Expecting that of our youth is not only a daunting task, but is unrealistic, as they cannot defend themselves against the powers of darkness or the walls of those who are stuck in their unbelief.

Share It! 

What I want my students, and everybody else, to be able to do is know what they believe well enough to share it in a way that gives them confidence when somebody asks them questions about it. No, you do not need to convince anybody of anything. You do not need to know the answers to their many questions. For most of them, your answers will just lead to more questions that cannot be answered. We don't believe because we've suddenly been given all the answers. We believe because the Holy Spirit has given us faith. We share our experience and truth, we do not need to defend it.

So, don't fill their heads with answers to have at the ready when those who do not believe begin pestering them with questions that may or may not match their answers. Fill their hearts with confidence in knowing what they believe and the ability to share it in their own words.

WHEW!! Isn't that a relief? Given all that, people will still ask questions and make stupid remarks, so here are a few phrases and suggestions.
  • "I believe the Bible is true."
  • Teach them to put the creeds into their own words and be able to tell others what they mean in their own words. Here's what I believe... (about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). 
  • Teach them some Bible verses to help explain where their belief comes from and how they see God in the world and in their lives.  
  • Teach them to stand in what they believe with confidence:  "It's stupid? Well, maybe to you, but it's not to me."
  • "That's what I believe. I can't make you believe it and didn't tell you you had to believe it, but I believe it."
  • "Religion is for the weak? Well, that's your opinion. It makes me feel strong and confident."

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