I met Eric the day I moved into Taub Hall at UH in September of 1988. Eric was very different from the guys I had hung out with in my high school years. He had an earring--very unusual for a male in those days. He was a huge movie buff who had an encyclopedic knowledge of horror films. And he was an absolute religious skeptic. Eric and I became friends and occasional debaters on matters of faith. He was far above me intellectually, so I never did very well in those debates. He posed questions about God, the Bible and Christian theology that I had never even considered. Ultimately, that was good for my own walk with Christ, because it pushed me to study, meditate and examine why I believed as I did. I haven't seen or heard from Eric in over ten years now. For a few years after we both graduated, he would email us reviews of the latest movies he had seen, and they were more entertaining and well-written than the work of most published film critics. Eventually the reviews stopped without explanation. My emails were no longer answered. I still pray for Eric, and hold out hope he'll overcome his intellectual objections and accept Christ...and that we'll renew our friendship in Heaven someday.
We will encounter people who are skeptical about Christ and/or about our faith in Him. These include atheists or agnostics like Eric, as well as adherents of other religions, people who have been burned by churches in the past, or people too caught up in the pursuit of success or power to give Jesus the time of day. We have historically done a lousy job of reaching out to people like these. This Sunday--Super Bowl Sunday--we'll look at how Jesus responded to a skeptic named Simon the Pharisee. It won't necessarily go the way you expect it to...but it should give us some good rules of thumb for reaching out to our skeptical friends.