“WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JESUS?” I recently asked an Orthodox Jew sitting across from me at dinner. We were eating with our group after spending the day at a conference in the Buckhead District of Atlanta.
Without hesitation, he replied that Jesus was simply a Jew who went in the wrong direction. “Not a messiah or a prophet, Jesus was just a Jewish carpenter who did not think clearly,” stated my Jewish colleague.
“Well you must think Jesus was a mad man since he claimed to be God?” I replied in a hushed voice, but with genuine curiosity and sincerity, hoping he wouldn’t get defensive and evade the question.
“Yes,” he answered with complete certainty, “Jesus was quite deranged.”
I wanted desperately to share with my friend all of the reasons why I had recently become a Christian. I felt compelled to discuss with him my rationale for concluding that Jesus is the messiah, yet I was speechless. My testimony is complex and somewhat abstract, so spitting out the Readers Digest version over dinner would only cause my friend to see me as a mental case. As a former Atheist, I had hundreds of concise logical arguments ready to deploy at a moment’s notice; each one specially formulated for maximum impact against a variety of religious beliefs. However, the Christian argument requires a synthesis of everything we know; our academic knowledge, life experiences, and intuition. In an instant, I realized that I was not prepared to defend Jesus!
Later that evening, I was chatting in front of the hotel lobby with three members from the conference and the topic of religion came up. Since I missed my opportunity to defend Jesus over dinner, I was eager to share my story of conversion with the group. When I mentioned that I recently changed from Atheism to believing in Jesus, the man next to me smiled and said he was currently an Atheist. This was my chance to make up for my poor performance at dinner, yet again I was speechless.
The same scenario occurred the next day, but this time with a Muslim woman. Three opportunities were presented and three opportunities were missed. These missed opportunities were no accident. I believe they were a profound lesson. Effectively sharing our testimonies of Jesus Christ is a responsibility and a duty. If we can’t explain why we are Christians, then how will a non-Christian take us seriously?
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Contributed by John R. Maculley, Jr.: [email protected] John is a new Christian, having converted from Atheism in February 2005, one week before his 33rd birthday. He has spent his life studying philosophy and searching for truth in cultures throughout the world. He is currently working on his first book, entitled: “Searching for the Source”, which outlines the mental process an Atheist goes through when considering spirituality.
(To access the entire “Truth’s Witness” devotional series, please click here.)