About a month ago I started to get — depressed is not the right word — put out. I took the gang to Soliton, we got fired up, I started to think I might see change… and then I hit a wall. There’s nothing going on. God? What God? I was living, as some say, as a practical atheist. That is, I believed in God, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by observing how I lived.
For some time Mike Todd has been prodding my thinking about faith. Is it about what you “believe,” or what you do? Isn’t action the truest expression of faith? And then I thought of Robert and became ashamed: Here is an atheist who is an active force in their faith community. He is serious about following Jesus, and he doesn’t even believe in God! While the rest of us gorge ourselves on the godless accumulation of Stuff, Robert’s community is practicing a gift tithe to the poor for Christmas.
And then I remembered Keith Green’s song about the sheep and the goats. You oldies remember it. It’s the one where he is improvising a piano ditty and retelling Jesus’ story of the judgement of the sheep and the goats. The goats are those who profess faith in Christ yet have not cared for “the least of these.” And I can still hear Keith Green at the end saying, “And my friends, the only difference between the sheep and the goats, is what they did — and didn’t — do!“
Remember the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, when the kings and queens encounter the faithful servant of Tash who was welcomed by Aslan? I remember hearing conservative evangelicals in college, who normally adore C.S. Lewis, saying that Lewis messed up on that one character. I say, what a crock. Because on that last day, I can see Jesus welcoming Robert with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And Robert will answer, “But I didn’t even believe in you, how can you welcome me?” And the Lord will answer, “I’m telling you the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.”
I shared this with Kay as we were grocery shopping. Somehow I kept back my tears as I said, “But calling myself a ‘practical atheist’ is an insult to this atheist. He’s a better Christ-follower than I am!”