Equipping Message from Hugh
“Do you think I’m wasting my time, Hugh?”
The question came from a woman who’d been trying for some time to present the Gospel to a science-educated co-worker and getting (seemingly) nowhere. Instead of letting her talk about Jesus, this man had been posing challenges to her faith and peppering her with questions, sometimes in an abrasive tone. “My friends tell me I should write him off, but I’d like to know what you think,” she added.
At that moment I was glad for all the years and all the times I’ve spent interacting with people much like her co-worker. Their response (and his) makes perfect sense to me because I came from a similar starting point, confident of science and skeptical of religion. Such individuals who’ve grown up apart from any church may seem “closed” and “unreachable” even if they are not.
Consider their circumstances. Many science-minded men and women tend to view themselves as objective, or fact-based, and “religious” people as subjective, or emotion-based. Often their initial reaction to any discussion of Jesus Christ or the Bible reflects this perception, and they appear dismissive.
However, this response may change—even as rejection and hostility seem to persist. Both Kathy and I have experienced this reaction from people who are beginning to believe in Christ and yet anticipate the opposition and ridicule they’ll face if and when they do put their trust in Him. Sometimes they’re testing the sincerity of our motives and the security of our faith’s foundation. Sometimes they’re drawing out answers to the anticipated questions and challenges.
The woman I’d just met was surprised to hear that it took me eighteen months of studying the Bible an hour or two each day, plus a few more months of inner wrestling with fear and pride, before I felt ready to surrender my life to Christ. One reason it took me so long is that I knew how my family and friends, peers and professors would react to my profession of faith. I needed all that time, not only to find answers to my own questions and doubts, but also to prepare a confident response to the negative reactions that were sure to come. And they definitely did come. My parents initially shook their heads and then laughingly told relatives and friends, “Look out! Hugh’s got religion!” For years they refused to listen to any explanation of what I believed and why I believed it. (I’m glad to say their response eventually changed.)
The toughest test hit me when I arrived at Caltech. Although I was thrilled to finally meet Christians there, I also shared office space with a researcher who openly and repeatedly mocked my faith. Ian would bait me with a question then walk down to the coffee room to regale our colleagues with comments like, “You won’t believe what Hugh Ross just told me…”
One day, however, the laughter stopped. Ian walked into that same coffee room to make an announcement: “Forget whatever I’ve said about the Bible and Hugh Ross. Last night I gave my life to Jesus Christ.” All I could hear from down the hall was the sound of slurping.
Since then I have rarely, if ever, met a scientist or engineer raised apart from exposure to Christianity who came to faith in less than two years’ time. The worldview change is so profound and the potential fallout so great, the evidence must be carefully considered. And the process can’t be rushed. So, the answer I gave to the woman I met yesterday is the same one I would give to every Reasons To Believe constituent: Don’t be in a hurry. Rather than measure the speed or even the tone of a person’s response to the truth you share, rejoice that the conversation continues and look for the direction of the response.