By the time I got neck-deep in college, I knew my mission. The first story I presented in my fiction class told the 1,001 reasons no one should be a Christian. Never mind how boring that made the prose—the message mattered more. My poems featured forceful, angry words about the “non-existing god” and the fantasies of the Bible. I argued in philosophy class with those foolish believers (though I used more colorful words than that to describe them).
I had the angry atheist thing down.
Then, God blew me out of the water. With a little hard love and lot of grace, the Creator of this spinning blue orb made Himself so real to me that there was no rational way to deny it.
But I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t waste anything—not even my atheistic past. For one, I’ve saved those angry polemics to remind me of the path I’ve walked. For another, being an atheist gave me a perspective (for good and bad) that I might not have had as a staunch, from-childhood Christian. And it’s something that Mike McHargue (Christian-turned-atheist-turned-follower-of-Christ) talks about as well in a trending blog post. For him, being an atheist showed him how some Christians avoid living in the now:
“Christians think about the afterlife a lot. I never understood how much until I stopped believing in life after death. We're so concerned with Heaven, Hell and who goes where that we forget about this life. Our Scriptures talk much more about this life than the next, but our focus often doesn't reflect that.
“Atheists don't have that luxury. With no God and no afterlife, atheists must concern themselves with the here and now. With no savior, atheists must work to address suffering with their own hands. With no heaven or hell, atheists have to savor and enjoy every moment as a gift.
“I haven't lost that perspective. The Good News means little to someone who is starving or who has no roof over their head. Likewise, I am mindful of all those moments we have now that reflect the Kingdom of God. Every Sunday I spend singing with my friends and family at church is divine. Each touch of my wife's hand is a blessing, and every twirl my daughters make down the hall fills me with life.”
As for me, my time as an atheist showed (very clearly) that some Christians think of unbelievers as “the enemy.” But the Jesus followers who finally helped me see God refused to be turned off by my bravado and belligerence. They could see the man beneath the “rational” veneer, a man scared of eternity. They kept praying and kept reaching out until God opened my eyes.
In a recent video for BibleStudyTools.com, Pastor Judah Smith shows how John 3:16 helps us have a heart for non-Christians:
What about you? How has your past helped you in your Christian walk today? Are you a former atheist who now follows Jesus? Share your story.