Real Questions from Real Teenagers

How Do You Convince Someone That God and Jesus Are Real?

For this and other questions, entire books could be written. How many hours do you have? But I will attempt to be thorough yet concise. So, here we go.

     Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
(Hebrews 11:1)

Simply put, I don’t try to convince anyone. That’s not really my job. Faith is one of those weird things. There are those who believe, those who don’t, and those who are on the fence. For those of us who have faith, it’s not our job to convince and persuade others to believe in God. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but hear me out.

Faith or a lack thereof is often a result of many different factors: environment, upbringing, trauma, personal experience, knowledge, exposure, and more. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that if I had been born in Mosul or Delhi or Beijing that I would for sure still be a Christian. I trace my faith in Christ back to my parents. If they hadn’t been Christians, then would I? I don’t know. Faith is often handed down through families and social systems in which we find ourselves.

That doesn’t mean there is no hope for those who were born into different situations than me. People can come to faith no matter what their background. Here’s what I would say to those of us who already believe:

1) Everyone is religious. Humans have a natural curiosity about the world and their purpose in it. We latch onto whatever it is that gives our lives meaning. Some find it in Christ, others in Allah, or Buddha, or sports, or politics, or materialism, or family. We all seek meaning and purpose. We all want to outlast our lives in some way. That can be a good place to start with someone.

     “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you…”
(Acts 17:22-23)

Maybe you have a friend who is curious about God and Christianity. You don’t begin by trying to prove scientifically that God exists. You begin with conversations about meaning and purpose. I can bet that most people who have no faith and are not members of a church community have a difficult time finding meaning, purpose, and belonging.

2) You represent Christ to everyone else. We are Christ’s ambassadors. When people look at us, what do they see? Are we judgmental or full of grace? Are we condemning or merciful? Are we “holier than thou” or humble? Do they know that we love them no matter what or that we’re only interested in converting them?

     We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:20)

It’s not my job to convince others that God exists. It’s my job to live as if he does. People can spot a fake pretty easily. Does your life line up with what you claim to believe? Jesus told us to let our lights shine so that others may see our good works and glorify God.

3) You don’t have to have all the answers. One of my favorite miracle stories in the gospels is from John 9. Jesus healed a blind man. The man was then questioned by the religious leaders who were upset with Jesus and looking for a reason to have him arrested. They claimed that Jesus was a sinner. Listen to the formerly blind man’s response:

     “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
(John 9:25)

Saying “I don’t know” is better than saying the wrong thing. You don’t have to know everything. You just need to tell your story. The most convincing argument for God is a changed life.

     But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
(1 Peter 3:15)

People are not typically won over through debates or arguments or scientific findings. People are won over through relationships, belonging, purpose, and love. Paul would remind us that we could be the most amazingly religious people on the planet – speaking in tongues, knowing the deep secrets of the universe, sacrificing our bodies on account of our faith – but if we don’t love others, then it counts for nothing.

     “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
(John 13:34-35)

If the conversation gets off on apologetics, science, philosophy, or whatever, then it’s ok to follow that path, but don’t let that be your starting point. Let love be your starting point.