“Tim, someone is on the phone with a Bible question.“
I looked up from my desk at the Credo House. My brain started to switch into this neutral position trying to be prayerfully ready for the person on the other side of the phone to take the conversation in any of a million different biblical directions.
“Hello,” I said waiting for the person to respond.
“Yes, I have a Bible question,” the middle-aged man responded.
“Ok, well I don’t promise anything but let’s chat,” I said in a way where I was trying to lighten the atmosphere. Sometimes people call and they’re very nervous talking about God or struggling with some issue that they feel ashamed of in their life. With no nervous laughter on the other side of the phone I was interested to hear the Bible question.
In the next thirty seconds I quickly sat up totally surprised at his next few statements. This man had obviously thought through every single word once I gave him the floor. His “question” was not a question, it was a rant. It was very clear he disdained the deity of Christ. This man used a deep voice I typically reserve for my dog when he’s misbehaving. It was interesting hearing the voice directed to me, I feel sorry for my dog.
Nearly every sentence toward me during this initial “question” stage began by him saying, “Now, Tim, tell me how you can possibly believe Jesus is God when…” This guy was not your average run-of-the-mill person with a Bible question. I could tell this guy had enough Greek and Church History to be dangerous. I could also tell he was working off some major talking points that I thought were a bit weak. I waited for his rant to end but I also started praying and pondering the next steps to take. Once there was a bit of silence a dialogue returned to our conversation. My first response slid out of my mouth before I knew I had said it:
“Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?” I asked.
“Yes, but that’s not important.”
“Have you called here before?” I asked.
“No, I have never called here,” he responded with an impatient tone that I knew was making him frustrated that I hadn’t responded yet to his very detailed question filled with theology, Latin phrases and Church History.
“Are you sure? You sound just like a guy that’s called here a couple times over the last few years.” Even though he denied ever calling I’m pretty certain he has called before and I’m even more certain that he takes pleasure in calling churches and ministries and blowing unsuspecting and unprepared Christians out of the water. It was now time to get to the “question.”
“Look, I just don’t have time today to fight for the next hour. It sounds like you have your mind made up on Jesus and I’m pretty sure I do too. I think we’ll both hang up thinking we’ve each won the conversation. We are a ministry that cares deeply about truth but we have more important things to do than fight. I think we should simply not have this conversation. I don’t think it’ll be helpful for either of us,” I said.
“Look, I’m not going to fight. Can’t you simply have a conversation? Are you so brainwashed that you can’t even talk about how clear it is in Scripture that Jesus is not God?” he replied.
After a couple back-and-forth statements where I was trying to hang-up and he was trying hard to get me to enter into his opening “question” I decided to engage on a very particular line of argument. We had each flexed our muscles enough to let each other know that both of us were decently fluent in the original biblical languages, Latin statements and Church History. Yet, I wanted to engage in a way that I thought would catch him off guard. This guy had clearly had many of these conversations. What could I offer that would be any different?
“Ok,” I said, “I won’t hang up and I’ll try to answer your question if you will do one thing first.”
“Tell me what my 5 best arguments are against your position.”
“You’ve obviously talked to many people in this way using these same arguments. What are my best 5 arguments against you.” I waited for just a split second before he responded.
“There are none.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what he said, “You don’t think there is any reason someone would believe Jesus is God?”
“That’s right, there isn’t one reason any thinking person reading the Bible would believe Jesus is God.”
Our conversation unfortunately went on for a while longer but I have been haunted by his response. This guy was so steeped in his view of Jesus being a creature he couldn’t imagine even one reason someone with a brain and a Bible would believe contrary.
One reason I was haunted by this guy’s response is I started to fear that I might sound the same way to someone else I am trying to talk to about Jesus. I think all of us need to get a whole better at “Role-Playing for Jesus.” I would have given this guy a lot more credibility if he could have reduced the anger in his rhetoric and then very precisely communicated the best reasons for the deity of Jesus. I would have at least known that he has understood, not just heard with his ears, but understood with his mind the top reasons I believe Jesus to be God. This man could have then said, “Tim, does this sound like what you teach people about the deity of Christ? If so, can I now share with you why I still believe Jesus is not God?” I would have been much more receptive to hear his position knowing that he understood my views on Jesus.
Role-Playing for Jesus can be helpful on two fronts.
First, do you know why some people around you hate God? Or perhaps why some people might be filled with anger as they drive by your church? Do you have a good understanding why some people think you are a bigoted quack? Can you list off their top 5 reasons? A postmodern person generally wants to know you authentically care and understand them before they have ears to hear anything authoritative from you. Don’t just try to get into their shoes for the fun of it, but genuinely role-play for Jesus. If you can really understand their position you have a good chance to really help lead them to Jesus.
Second, ask those attacking your faith to jump into your shoes. If they are unable to even imagine why you might believe what you believe then the door may be open to speak to curious ears. Many times we speak before people are ready for us to speak. If someone says to you, “I think the Bible is full of errors and I don’t believe in magic books.”
If you respond by asking them to do a bit of fun role-playing by trying to list off some reasons I might think it is true, then a helpful interaction is now forming. If they say there are no reasons then the door is open to ask if you could share a few reasons. You can then share how you still have a brain in your head and also believe the Bible to be accurate words from God.
What do you think about Role-Playing for Jesus?