A healthy Christian knows they are far more similar in many ways to the doubter, seeker, and prodigal than they are different. Doubt, skepticism, and prodigal living are all born from a place deep in the human heart—they are a protest against pain, uncertainty, and frustration.
A Christian is a person who confesses daily our profound need for nothing less than Christ’s agony and victory over the grave to save us. This means Christians have no boast to make except for the grace and mercy of God in Christ—without which we would be adrift in this world. For that reason, we should be filled with empathy for people who are hurting or struggling.
No one has a simple story. One thing I have seen in my years as a pastor is that spiritual crises or seasons of searching can come to anyone—even life-long Christ-followers—at any time, and these seasons themselves are part of God’s way of bringing people to himself and shaping people’s lives.
Every sanctuary every Sunday is filled with people in various stages of spiritual crisis or questioning. Some of us are people who are curious about Christianity, but have never claimed this as our faith. Others of us are people who have walked as Christians for years, but have experienced more recent struggles, tragedies, losses, or abuses that have shaken our faith in the God we thought we knew. For others of us, our struggle is simply that we’re pretending to be Christians, though we know our hearts are far from Jesus—and coming to church reminds us that we’re pretending, and that we’ve gotten good at it.
We want Christ Presbyterian Church to be a place where people can bring their doubts, struggles, and questions—and not be criticized for having them. We want to be a place where we can wrestle with them honestly—and we want to be a welcoming community where we can bring friends and co-workers who are also searching for truth.
How will this happen? Through all of us loving our neighbors. One of the primary ways God brings truth into the lives of spiritual seekers is through the words and friendships of Christian people.
I know that not everyone will be open to hearing the Gospel, but that is more the Lord’s business than it is ours. What a non-Christian person does with the Gospel is not what makes them deserving of a Christian’s love and respect. The fact that we all bear the image of God is enough to oblige us all to honor the dignity of every person we meet.
For this generation, the door seems open for Christians to share their faith with humble transparency. Some may scoff, some may object, but when we are genuinely loving, and humbly transparent about our desire for those we love to know Christ, more often than not, that door is left open rather than slammed shut.
I am grateful for those who have let me in to their stories of struggle and searching. To stand with them there is to stand on holy ground. May the Lord continue to make us into a peculiar people who love without fear, as we join Jesus in befriending those who do not believe as we do. And may it lead to some of the best stories we’ve ever heard—some of the best stories we’ve ever had the honor to tell.
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Russ Ramsey is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative, and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is a graduate of Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary. Follow Russ on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.