I guess I am like many Christians who stereotype atheists and agnostics. In simplest terms, atheists deny the existence of God, and agnostics doubt the existence of God. I often viewed such people as hopeless cases for sharing the love of Christ.
Then, my wife, Nellie Jo, and I interviewed a former atheist, known by her nickname, “Mrs. J.” We spent time with her in the neat town of Greensburg, Pa. For most of her life, Mrs. J. was an anti-Christian atheist. Indeed, she spent much of her time arguing with Christians and showing the fallacies of their beliefs. A highly educated woman, Mrs. J. often could run argumentative circles around Christians.
But she was not a hopeless cause. In fact, she would later accept Christ and become a convinced and convicted follower of the Savior.
We asked Mrs. J. for the best way to share Christ with an atheist or agnostic. Her response was simple: love them. “I didn’t see a lot of Christian love when I was an atheist.” She then said, “I became a Christian despite Christians.”
That statement was an “ouch moment,” an indictment against unloving and uncaring Christians.
Then we talked to Mia, a pretty 29-year-old housewife with two beautiful children. When we first met her in Greer, S.C., our impression was that she was a typical suburban mom, who grew up in a healthy, normal home. Instead, Mia told us horrific stories about a boyfriend who abused her when she was a teenager. She turned to drugs and alcohol as her escape. We heard how she rejected God and questioned His existence. Mia was an agnostic most of her life.
But Mia was blessed to meet Jeff, whom she ultimately married. And she was blessed with children. Jeff, who came from a Christian home, urged his wife to attend church with him.
Reluctantly, she did so. One Sunday a loving Sunday school teacher shared a simple but heartfelt Gospel message with the class Mia attended. Mia not only heard, but she believed. And the one-time agnostic and rebellious young person became a child of God.
“I believe every agnostic and atheist is just a lost soul seeking love,” Mia told us. “Never give up on a person. Never judge them. Accept them as they are, and soon they will see Christ in you.”
I left these two visits wondering how many times I had given up on someone. I wondered how many times I had not showed Christian love because of my own prejudice against someone who did not believe like I did. How many times had I forfeited opportunities to show love and share Christ?
For, as Nellie Jo and I both learned, even atheists and agnostics need Jesus.