The people of Australia call him the Yowie. The Chinese call him Yeren. In Indonesia he goes by the name Orang Pendek. The people of Tibet call him the Yeti, and the Native American tribes of the Northwest Pacific call him Sasquatch. We call him Bigfoot.
A few years ago Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton claimed to have discovered the body of a dead Bigfoot in the north Georgia mountains – as if we north Georgians needed any more help in reinforcing the world’s opinion that we are moronic rednecks.
There was a huge press conference when the dead Bigfoot was brought out to meet the world. He was on ice in a freezer, and this particular specimen had a perplexing physical makeup.
His hair was synthetic. His head was hollow – possibly like Misters Dyer and Whitton – and his feet were made of rubber. This Bigfoot was – surprise – a hoax.
What would it take for you to be convinced of Bigfoot’s existence? Certified reports of sightings? Footprints? Plaster of Paris molds, an inexplicable skeleton or undefined DNA sample? Maybe a close analysis of the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 as the Sasquatch creature walks away into the woods?
While all of these could be used as tools to convince a person that Bigfoot is real, these probably would not convince someone entirely – not on their own. What would be needed would be a close encounter.
If a person saw a Bigfoot with his own eyes in clear light, at close range, and while being otherwise in his right mind. Then he might be convinced. He might become a believer.
When we talk about God or about our relationship with Christ, to many of our hearers we Christians sound as if we are speaking of a Yeti. We speak of what some conclude is an imaginary creature. Sure, everyone has heard of him, but no one has ever really seen him.
This being the case, dealing with the unseen, it is easy for those of us who have eyes and ears of faith to fall into the trap of trying to convince others of the existence of this Creature by using evidence that supports our case: Philosophical arguments, systematic defenses, traces of God’s hand in our world.
We spew out facts and pile up proofs, aiming at people from a position of arrogance and superiority. We operate under the false assumption that our message has instant credibility. If it is rejected by those who refuse to believe like we believe, even though the truth is as clear as the noses on their faces, then those people must be dense. They just don’t get it.
But the credibility of our message cannot be assumed. It must be earned, and it cannot be earned if the underlying goal is to antagonize or demean those to whom we wish to speak about what we believe.
If our goal is to win a theological or philosophical argument about the existence of God, then we should go ahead and fight it out with those who believe differently than us. But if the goal is to invite a person to see Christ for themselves, the only thing that really convinces anyone any way, then arguing accomplishes nothing.
We would do better to speak of what we have seen and experienced for ourselves, and to invite people to take to the woods with us, and follow the narrow path that leads to a personal and very real encounter with the risen Christ.
My youngest son was telling me a long, elaborate story this week that his little friend at school had relayed to him. It was a story about ghosts, monsters, and a million other hypothetical beings. I asked him at the conclusion of the tale, “Do you believe everything people tell you?”
He chuckled and said, “No. I only believe what is real.” The boy is right on target. When we defend our faith, or defend Christ, we aren’t barricading ourselves in somewhere behind analysis, arguments, sermonizing, or one-sided discourses.
We are inviting others to discover with us what we have found to be real, even if it seems too amazing to be true.