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Keep Christianity Strange

A couple of weeks ago my pastor opened his sermon with an illustration from Lost—my favorite TV show of all time. He observed how strange the plot of Lost sounds when you try to summarize it in just a few minutes. He then showed how our faith can sound equally strange when we explain it to others.

I resonated with this point and thought about how Christians should see the strangeness of our faith as an encouraging thing. Here are three reasons why we should acknowledge and embrace the strangeness of our faith.

1. In human terms, it is strange.

Think about it. If you were to summarize the plot of Scripture in a concise way, here’s one way it could sound:

A married couple was in a garden, and they were unashamedly naked. Then, a snake talked to them, and tricked them into disobeying God. They became ashamed, and they broke the way the world was supposed to be. God kicked them out of the garden, so they were free to roam the world and mess everything up.

Generations passed, God saved some people from slavery, and then gave them 10 important rules to live by (and a bunch of others, too). Kings eventually came to rule God’s people, one of whom was David. He killed a giant with some stones when he was a kid, and grew up to write a lot of worship songs.

Generations later, God’s Son—who’s as much God as God is—who had always existed but never as a human, became a human to be killed. Yes—to be killed. He lived perfectly, which no one had ever done before, and then people nailed him to a cross. Then he literally got up from the dead. Somehow, in God’s economy, this act paid for the screw-ups of everyone who has ever lived, so that whoever believes this good news can spend forever with God.

Oh, and one day he’s going to return in the sky on a horse.

If you aren’t familiar with the biblical narrative, much of that account will sound utterly odd: talking snakes, a “perfect” world, God’s Son pinned to a tree, bodily resurrection. Like, what?

The story of the Scriptures on which Christians build their life is otherworldly, which makes it sound ridiculous. This is normal. But it doesn’t take away from the grandeur of the gospel.

We do well when we learn to defend our faith logically and rationally; such a pursuit is wise. But we must understand that no matter how compellingly we explain the Christian faith, much of it will continue to sound strange because, often, God’s workings don’t cooperate with the five senses.

2. It allows us to meet people where they are intellectually.

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This point is intimately tied to the first.

When we are willing to acknowledge the strangeness of the Christian faith, it allows us to meet unbelievers where they are on an intellectual level.

We can’t expect the inner workings of the gospel—that make sense to us but sound nonsensical to unbelievers—to get wholly believed by someone who hasn’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit. After all, only by the grace of the Holy Spirit is God’s story more than gibberish to those of us who do believe (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4–6).

By acknowledging that God’s actions in this world seems a bit odd, we take strides toward making unbelievers less apprehensive about discussing matters of faith. If our first response to gospel confusion is defensiveness, we have likely created another obstacle to sharing the gospel.

We must have the grace to understand the weirdness of our faith in the eyes of unbelievers in our effort to engage in constructive conversations.

3. We don’t lose the glory of the gospel by acknowledging its strangeness.

Quite the opposite, actually. The strangeness of the Christian faith affirms the miracle of the gospel. The legitimacy of God’s grace isn’t established by its logical coherency (though it is logically coherent), but by its eternal veracity.

The apparent absurdity of the gospel is a human problem, not a divine problem.

When we acknowledge the ridiculous nature of our faith, we’re not indicting God under the laws of logic. Rather, when we understand that our faith sounds funny to some, we’re affirming that our God defies finite logic before he’s bound by it.

Brothers and sisters, almost every day that passes I’m made more aware of our desperate need to take ourselves a little less seriously than we do. Let’s embrace the strangeness of the faith and allow the glory of God to shine through it. 

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