If you are a Christian who is passionate about living out your faith, then chances are you have engaged in at least a few religious discussions with agnostics and/or atheists.
I can still picture cafeteria debates from my freshman year of high school. What was actually said escapes my memory, but we Christians saw it as our duty to prove the atheist "ring leaders" wrong so we could joyfully rope them into the kingdom of God.
Thankfully, I began to learn the art of friendly discussion as opposed to blatant and prideful truth-telling. Fast forward 15 years and things have changed drastically. Oh, we still debate our beliefs, but I suspect we listen less and less as our conversations increasingly take shape on social media platforms.
I am left wondering: "Are #cleverhashtags more important to us than the other person?" and "Why do we equate spiritual retweets and Jesus jukes with angelic halos?" #arguingneverwonanyoneintothekingdom
When we stop long enough to listen, we convey to others that we care about them and what they have to say. As a result, they are often more open to what we have to say as well. And, as I've listened, atheists have taught me a few things about God along the way.
1. We are all sinners. Sometimes, we need a healthy dose of humility. As Christians, we know that we are sinners saved by grace, but sometimes we tend to think that all our "big" sins disappear the moment we trust Christ. We might slip up and tell a white lie about someone's awful haircut or extra body fat, but we would certainly never be guilty of anything really bad, right?
But that's simply not true. I don't have to look farther than my Facebook newsfeed to be reminded of this, and often the most grievous reminders are from news articles and posts shared by atheists concerning Christianity.
Folks, we don't have it all together. The only difference between us and anyone else is that we have come to know the One who does have it all together. Our hope is in Christ's righteousness, not our self-righteousness.
2. Interpretations are not infallible. Scripture is infallible, but human interpretation is not. We need people who can point out our inconsistencies in order to help us hone our critical thinking skills and perhaps realize areas where we have been wrong. Input from non-Christians is invaluable in this regard because they see things that fellow believers aren't as quick to catch.
3. The importance of social justice. Because we have a Savior who has experienced suffering in human flesh, we can take comfort in His presence and in turn minister to others. God calls us to reach out to the abused, the desolate and the downtrodden, even when it's out of our comfort zones.
I've noticed many atheists championing social justice causes that Christians have overlooked. It's like their hearts come pre-programmed with "injustice detectors" that beep whenever any injustice comes within a 300-yard radius.
Perhaps this has been born out of their struggle to believe in God because of the pain they see around the world. Regardless, it has often been atheists who have brought social justice issues onto my radar screens.
I could list more things, but it's safe to say I've learned valuable truths from atheists about the God of all Truth. My prayer is that they too may come to know the One whom they have taught me more about.
Sarah Bowler is communications coordinator at EvanTell, a ministry committed to reaching people around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is one of my contributors at EvangelVision, a blog resource from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.
This blog post originally ran at EvangelVision.
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