I Don’t Think I’ve Ever Met an Unbeliever (& I Don’t Think You Have Either)

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2011 at 3:38 am

Submitted By: Gentry

A dear friend who we’re proud to support in Christian ministry and whom I in no way intent to personally critique in this post included the following quote in his last email update:

“Believers read the Bible, unbelievers read Christians.”  -Preacher at Large Christian Church

Upon first reading I loved this quote so much that I almost tweeted it. As a Christian I have been deeply shaped by the Judeo-Christian scriptures and desperately long to incarnate the beauty, truth, and goodness of the God I encounter there in the midst of an often broken world.

But that word “unbelievers” gave me pause. I’ve heard people who do not follow Christ characterized by this word a million times by Christians, preachers, and theologians. However, until now I haven’t thought about how presumptuous and arrogant the word unbeliever actually sounds.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who could correctly be characterized as an “unbeliever.” I’ve met many who believe in things I do not – such as their ability to channel angels for prophetic purposes, that the Palestinians are an “invented” people group, that human rationality utterly devastates and demythologizes the Christianity, or I’m destined to inherit a tidy planet in the 9th nebula of the Ing Galaxy – but that does not mean that they are unbelievers.

This might be too obvious to type, but other people are not defined by my beliefs. I am. The community that I’m blessed to be a part of is.

Moreover, although many people I love and am privileged to serve beside do not share my core belief in the Trinity, they do believe in the possibility of justice, the transformative power of generosity, capacity of words to provoke, evoke, and invoke,* the unquestionable National League superiority of the St. Louis Cardinals, and so many other things.

These folks are not unbelievers, they are my friends, they are my family, they are those who share parts of my mission, they are my teachers, they are lovers, they are loved.

Would I like for everyone I love to be transformed by the beauty, truth, and goodness of God and share my hope in a Christ who ultimately will make all things new? Of course I would. But I will not disregard their beliefs because they do not completely align with mine and I will not compel them to respond to a call they might choose to ignore.

I read scripture and I long to be shaped by it (except for the genocidal parts and other provisions we can discuss in detail later). I hope that when my friends who don’t believe in Jesus read me, they don’t find that I’ve defined them in opposition to my life or am anything less than grateful for the opportunities we share to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly – with or without God – beside one another.

So that’s my visceral response to the word “unbeliever.” Curious to hear yours.

* To crib the lovely and amazing Courtney Bell.

  1. I like your post. It gives respect to those of other beliefs, that I think we Christians need to start having more of.

  2. I have always disliked the word unbeliever because it puts a negative connotation onto another person. And when we speak about others in negative terms it can affect how we feel/think about them whether we realize it or not. To me you may as well say enemy instead of unbeliever because they mean the same thing.

    I have always seen a God of many faces and that usually depends on the face of the person I am speaking with. I don’t think two people will ever see God the same because we are all different and shaped by our experiences. And I think that God is big enough to handle it. 🙂


  3. Thanks for the kind comments. Eva great to (virtually) see you again!

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