I love unbelievers.
Don’t get me wrong.
Believers OK too, I suppose.
But I love unbelievers.
Especially those who are candid enough to say it.
There is something of an endearing openness; a charming innocence about someone who (for any number of reasons) seems to think they are miles away from belief.
When maybe they’re not.
On Easter Sunday, I had one of the most life-giving conversations with an unbeliever brave enough to tell this Baptist pastor the truth.
Every Sunday morning, there is a group of men who gathers at Starbucks. They are friends who simply meet early for coffee and conversation.
When I breeze through, the routine is fairly common. We greet one another and make some small talk, while doctoring up our drinks.
They know what I do; which occasionally prompts a predictable question I have frankly come to enjoy: “So, Shaun, what’s your sermon about today?”
I usually give them a sentence or two. A sneak-peak.
On Sunday, there seemed to be a kind of heightened interest, as it was Easter.
One guy even bought my coffee because of it.
(I resisted the urge to push my luck and point out that Easter happens every week.)
“Big day, today?”
“Oh yeah. Today is Super Bowl Sunday for us!”
“Really? Even bigger than Christmas?”
(Some questions reveal more than expected.)
“Yes. Today is what it’s all about. The resurrection is why we’re here. In fact, if today hadn’t happened, no one would know or care about the birth.”
“Hmm. Ok. Makes sense, I guess.”
(Then, after a few random questions about Caiaphas and Pilate and the political dynamics behind the crucifixion, I got a confession…)
“I’m not a Christian, but this is interesting.”
“Ok. So, yeah, what I’m telling our folks today is that the Resurrection we celebrate is something real and is happening right now, everywhere, if we can learn to see it. Part of it is learning to see the life and love and beauty of God’s image in one another. That’s kind of why we do church. To get better at recognizing God’s love in one another, and responding to it in ways that make sense, and matter.”
“Yeah, I just have a problem with people who get all dressed up, go through the motions of church, and then go out and treat people awful.
I guess it’s hypocrisy, you know?”
“Yea. I get it. Know who else had a problem with that? Jesus.
He couldn’t stand it. In fact, his biggest frustration was with guys in my job, who gave a lot of lip service to faith, but didn’t live it out. That’s why, again and again, he kept saying to people who were outside of the faith system, ‘you are closer to the Kingdom than you think.’”
“Hmm. Now that’s interesting.”
“I know, right? That’s why I love this day. Because we get to take another crack at getting it right, you know?
“That’s really interesting. I appreciate the talk.”
It was one of the highlights of Easter Sunday for me.
A conversation has been started; one that will continue at some level every week.
And who knows? In God’s good timing…
Johns Creek Baptist Church