One of my favorite Bible stories is of a young man Jesus healed who was born blind. This man was not particularly learned, but after receiving his healing he had the boldness to stand up to the religious scholars of the day. These Pharisees challenged the man’s claims of having been healed by Jesus. Even after attempts to intimidate his parents, threats to the man himself and his eventual expulsion from the place of worship, this man simply could not pretend otherwise. Truth is, once you have experienced a truth it is natural to hold on to it, even more so than having been simply convinced of that truth.
Like the young man in the story, my convictions are a product of the Christian experience. Having been born into a Christian family meant that I was introduced to the faith and church quite early on. As a matter of fact, my dad and his father before him were both pastors, while my grandfather on my mom’s side was what was known in those days as a catechist (a kind of bible teacher).
Added to this was the fact that I am of African heritage. If you know a thing or two about Africa, you will know that while it is abundantly diverse, it is also home to a profoundly religious yet culturally conservative people. My exposure to Christianity was inevitable as this was the dominant religion in my area.
My parents, despite their human flaws, modelled their faith to their children the best way they could. Their faith was not just a Sunday garment that they wore to church and took off when we got back home, but truly seemed to be what they depended on to take them through life.
God got the credit in our home when my parents afforded to provide us food for another week, or when they successfully embarked on a trip and returned safely. When they disciplined us, we knew it was just that, discipline, because everything else they did showed us that they loved us and would not punish us without reason. In typical African fashion, they welcomed unannounced visitors and provided them food and beds for them to sleep in, they took in poorer relatives’ children and sponsored them through school as their own. The Bible was the moral foundation of our home growing up and daily family prayer time was quality time. Testimonies of God’s divine intervention in various situations were always on their lips.
Eventually I had my first opportunity to leave the nest. At age 12, I would leave home for boarding school. Though a Christian boarding school, it was still a melting pot of individuals with differing world views. Many times my belief in Jesus was challenged during encounters with other students. Either openly or indirectly and for the first time I found myself questioning my faith. But every time, when I examined the alternative, it fell short.
None of the people who challenged me, no matter how thought provoking their argument was, seemed to possess the security, peace, or consistency that I had experienced accompanying my parents’ faith. Three years into boarding school, I realized that the difference between these people and my parents was that most of them presented a religion or philosophy but what my parents had was a relationship with Jesus.
I definitely wanted what my parents had. I asked Jesus into my heart and took ownership of my faith in God. Till this day, I have heard many philosophies, but I know the experience I have had with God’s Holy Spirit and what I have come to discover first hand is that “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an opinion.” (Leonard Ravenhill)
I have seen others whose encounter or experience with “Christians” in their lives that may have made them turn their back on “Christianity”. True Christianity is not practiced as just a religion with a set of rules to follow and nothing really good to show for it. True Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is not a relationship that is dependent on any human being. If we all actually ‘met’ Jesus without people getting in the way, it would be hard to walk away. I pray that everyone reading this story seek him and find him.
Though I talk about experience, my story is not suggesting blind belief in Jesus Christ. I have not shared every step of my journey, how I examined arguments and researched and weighed them against Christian theology. I have come to realize that most of us debate our points of view more to validate what we already believe, and not because we are necessarily looking to be shaped by these arguments. To truly know that an apple is sweet, we must taste the apple. In the same way, to truly know God is to experience Him.
May God bless you!
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. – John 17:3
You can see more people sharing the reason for the hope that they have here: Why Believe?
Emmanuel Asana works and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada and is an invaluable volunteer at Deep Water Church, Dartmouth.