I was deeply moved by this first story on last week’s This American Life. In it, writer Dave Dickerson describes his experience of coming back to the Christian faith after professing atheism for several years after college. During those years, he used to argue with believing family members—even ridiculing them—over the implausibility of some stories in the Bible.
What changed Dickerson’s attitude about faith? Love.
One night, he and his father were eating at a diner. Dickerson started to make his well-rehearsed case against Christianity. His father listened patiently and told him that he was proud of him and happy that he liked to study these things. But then his father shared his own testimony of faith, describing his life before his conversion—how miserable he was, how depressed he was, how he almost divorced Dickerson’s mother. Indeed, the writer remembered, his father was miserable when Dickerson was a boy.
It changed, his father said, when he began attending church for the first time. A Pentecostal church no less—with speaking in tongues, dancing in the aisles, and rolling around on the floor. His father said he thought those people were crazy. “But I could not ignore the love in that room and the care that they had for each other.” As his father was sharing this story, Dickerson was also reminded of an unexpected act of kindness that his older brother, also a believer, had performed for him some years earlier.
Love, Dickerson realized, was the common theme.
Before having dinner with his father that night, Dickerson said, “I had sort of expected to argue like I had with my brother-in-law, you know, not to win, but to come to some kind of armistice, some kind of truce where we’re like, ‘Well, we’ll agree to disagree, but I see your point—you know, it’s a good point.’ But I hadn’t expected to lose completely. Because you can’t argue with decency. You can’t argue with goodness.”
I was reminded of Jesus’ words in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If you want to be a witness for Christ, love works.