Thank you, Gary!

“Funny how we get brainwashed as children into believing these bonkers religious stories. Might be true though, I suppose.”

— Gary Lineker, retired English soccer star and TV commentator

LINEKERAccording to Justin Brierly, commentator on Premier Radio — a Christian media outlet in the UK, this was tweeted on Easter Sunday to Lineker’s 5.8 million followers.

Depending on the circumstances, a comment like that could be an invitation to a protracted debate, hostile retort or a good old punch-up. We could get into a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth and even personal remarks about Lineker’s qualification to make a remark like that; we could expound, exegetically, on the reasoning behind our faith; or we could kick his dust off our feet and walk away, remembering that Jesus says it will be more tolerable to be in Sodom or Gomorrah than anywhere in that person’s shoes.

We could also follow the lead of Hezekiah’s soldiers when their faith in God was challenged by the king of Assyria: “Answer him not.”

Or you could seize the opportunity: not to challenge him back and say, “Who’s bonkers?” or “You can’t believe when it’s staring you in the face?” or “Fine talk from someone blessed by God with physical talent like yours!”, but to review why we believe what we believe.

Was I brainwashed as a child? Actually, I was, but not in the way Gary is suggesting. I was raised to avoid “religion” and look at human intellect as the standard for behaviour. Certainly, there was a Bible on our shelf but it was used for the occasional quote (when I’d get teased at school and start crying, the kids would call me a “crybaby”, so mom told me to remind them, “Jesus wept”), but not as a guide for anything to do with everyday life.

So I started coming to Christ in my thirties and made The Commitment when I was past 40. Now, I could bore for Canada on the cliché, What God and Jesus Have Done In My Life.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I doubt that I would be alive today, if not for that faith. That reality is not something that can ever be explained through human reasoning or effort. If that’s bonkers, Gary, sign me up.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

— Hamlet

Remember, too, that Jesus didn’t tell us to defend God. He told us to spread the Gospel and to feed His sheep; what’s more, some say that faith is a muscle, which only gets stronger with resistance.

One more thing: it seems to be the “in” thing among famous people in the U.K. to espouse atheism — Lineker, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Richard E. Grant, among others — and it makes me wonder if this isn’t a throwback to the old British class system? Jesus — His life, message, sacrifice on the Cross and resurrection — reinforces the message that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Deuteronomy 10:17).

That levels the playing field for all us human beings, as far as God is concerned. Denying God supposes that there are different classes of people, including a super elite, whose talents are earned through their own work and/or “breeding”, and not gifts from God. That, in turn, kills faith, hope and any responsibility to love others.

I digress. Whether they realize it or not, people like Gary Lineker who attack Christians for having faith in a God we cannot see or a Spirit that cannot be explained are actually providing a glorious opportunity for testimony, both to ourselves and to others. We come out the stronger, others get a fresh witness, and Gary has as many as 5.8 million Twitter followers, praying for him.

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