So a few months ago, I started a new job where one of my co-workers is a very vocal atheist who also enjoys joking around and teasing everyone. Within the first two weeks, he began teasing me and another co-worker mercilessly about our Christian faith. Although I knew he wasn’t trying to hurt either one of our feelings and just making jokes at our expense, I knew he was also expressing his frustration towards a religion filled with followers who, in his eyes, sometimes could be the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.
At first I was at a loss on how to respond, so I just smiled and shook my head when he teased me. I knew it would be pointless to argue with him, at least in the beginning, until I knew him a little better. Since he brought up the topic due to his teasing, I began asking him why he would even jokingly say some of the things he brought up to me, so I could better understand his perspective and why he was so adamantly against the Christian faith. I soon learned his “beef” was really with all “organized religion.” He just happened to target my co-worker and me because he knew we’d be more forgiving about it, and if we weren’t, then, dangit, that just proved his point about our Christian hypocrisy!
Rather than arguing with him, I knew all I could share was why I had initially been able to take that leap of faith and why I continued to believe. I acknowledged some of his primary questions like “how can we really know if God exists,” but I also gave examples of how I see God in my daily life and how I believe He helps me overcome difficulties. As I shared my experiences, he didn’t argue but listened. He even nodded his head a few times. While I may have not persuaded him to my own perspective, he respected me more after our discussion because he realized I wasn’t just blindly following the Christian faith. I, too, had grappled with many of the same questions/issues he had, but I eventually came to a different conclusion than he did. While he didn’t agree with me, he slowly quit teasing me about my faith.
A few weeks later, he admitted to me that he did greatly respect the other co-worker whom he had also teased. They had worked over ten years together, and during that time, he had always known him to be an outstanding person. He was always the first to lend a helping hand to someone in need, always considerate, forgiving.
While neither one of us could argue with our co-worker’s atheistic beliefs, I also realized that no amount of words could speak louder to him than the actions of my co-worker and me. He was watching us, observing us, and that spoke volumes to him more than anything we could verbally articulate.
Authenticity. It’s often what you do and not just what you say.