Last weekend brought the first day of April, and with it a goofy “holiday” of sorts. April Fools’ Day brings a number of pranks and practical jokes with it, and unless you were the victim of a particularly well-orchestrated prank, the day is always worth a few laughs. But there’s one April Fools’ Day trend that’s gained popularity over the last few years that I want to address, and that is calling April Fools’ Day “Atheists’ Day.”
Based on Psalm 14:1 (“The fool has said in his heart there is no God”), a number of Christians have equated the “fools” in April Fools’ Day with the atheist fools mentioned in the Psalms. While posting “Happy Atheists’ Day” with the Scripture reference on Facebook may garner a chuckle or two, consider the cost. If you’re an atheist and your Christian friend who’s trying to convert you openly jokes (at your expense) by calling you a fool, the only thing that’s going to do is push you further away from listening to them. The aim to get a chuckle out of the people who agree with us while alienating people on the other side is exactly what’s keeping our country so divided today.
Why discuss this after the fact? Because what’s at stake here is a bigger issue. Though April 1st was a specific instance, the root of this problem is one that surfaces frequently between Christians and non-Christians: We don’t always listen to people or consider their feelings (Matthew 7:12).
The lesson to be taken here is that we have to be incredibly careful about how we come across. We have to consider how the things we say are going to sound to the people who hear them.
Sure, public perception isn’t the primary concern we should have when deciding what to say. If we based what we said on that, we wouldn’t stand behind much of what the Bible says. But that’s exactly why this point is so important. The Bible is an offensive book to all who don’t believe it. The message of the cross is one that divides and alienates. For that very reason we need to do our very best not to add any unnecessary offense to our message. Let people take their disagreements up with God, not us.
In the arguments we make for our beliefs, in our conversations, and in our social media posts, we have to be in the habit of considering how the words we use are going to be perceived. This will help us avoid using poor arguments or speaking with terms that we understand but others might not (like sanctification, transgressions, or propitiation). Becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22) never means compromising the message, but it does mean we meet people where they are. Doing that requires us to consider where they are and adapt the way we present our message. And it certainly includes not insulting them for what they believe. We can do better, church. Let’s strive to do just that.
By Jack Wilkie