Pagan and proud.

Whenever I share Jesus with pagans, I run into two types: The open-minded and the closed-minded. Either pagans who are curious and have tons of questions; or pagans who wanna tell me about Jesus, ’cause they already know it all.

The open-minded are fun. I may not get them to believe, or convince them to set foot in a church, but that’s okay: There’s still room for the Holy Spirit to work on ’em. There’s still hope. Whereas the closed-minded are depressing. They suck all the fun out of the conversation. They dismiss or mock what we consider important, and don’t care how insulting and condescending they come across. When Jesus compared them to swine, Mt 7.6 you can see why that analogy has become so popular.

Why are they like that? Pride.

Like I said, they already know it all. They think they have God all figured out. Or at least they have God figured out better than we Christians do. Sometimes they grew up Christian, so they actually do know a few things. Sometimes they didn’t, but they read a book or two about Historical Jesus, and imagine they know who he really is, whereas we Christians just swallow all our religion’s myths whole, and believe whatever our pastors and priests tell us. They’re woke; we’re not.

Every once in a while they didn’t merely read a book or two: They took a religion class. They read several books. They follow some guru who purports to tell them how religion really works. They got involved in some other religion, whether eclectic or organized, which claims they have the corner on the truth, whereas Christians are just sheeple. Sometimes they imagine they’re their own guru: “No, I don’t follow just one guy; every one of them is a little right and a little wrong. I make up my own mind.” Isn’t that clever of them.

So after all their research, they’re an authority on religion and Christianity. They’re the experts. They’re right and we’re wrong.

And if you’re one of those Christians who doesn’t realize we actually are wrong, and figure no, you’re right and they’re wrong: It’s gonna be particularly frustrating, ’cause your pride is gonna butt heads with their pride. I’ve been there. The discussions can get mighty ugly. Humility’s the way to go. But even when we are humble, the know-it-all pagan is still pretty annoying. And often quite pleased we find them annoying: Some of ’em wanna bug Christians. It’s evil fun for them.

How do we deal with ’em?

Remember, they’re swine.

To certain Christians, every pagan is an opportunity. No they’re not. Open-minded pagans are opportunities. Closed-minded pagans are the people to whom we shake the dust off our feet. Mk 6.11 That’s what Jesus tells us to do; let’s not be fools who figure if we argue with them, we’re at the very least “planting seeds.” No we’re not.

Jesus compared them with dogs and pigs.

Matthew 7.6 KWL
But don’t give holy things to the dogs, nor throw your pearls before the pigs.
Otherwise they’ll trample them under their feet, and they might turn and attack you.”

Dogs and pigs were ritually unclean animals. Likely ’cause they’ll eat anything. Including dead animals, which are also ritually unclean, Lv 11.24, 39 so if any Hebrew touched such animals, they weren’t allowed in temple or synagogue until they ritually purified themselves.

Why’d Jesus make this comparison? ’Cause some people, like dogs and pigs, have just as little sense. What we find valuable, they don’t. What they find valuable, we realize is nasty. Their priorities are crazy, and they’re not at all receptive to correction. Try to share Jesus and his gospel with them, and they’ll stamp on our message, then try stamping on us.

And that’s precisely what a know-it-all pagan does. Try telling ’em about Jesus, and they’ll try telling you about Jesus. “See, what you think he taught, he didn’t really. The writers of the bible made up that stuff to support their institutionalized church.” Oh what basis do they make this claim? Simple: It’s a teaching they don’t like, and if they don’t like it, it must therefore not be Jesus. If they do like it, Jesus must’ve totally taught it. Basically they edit Jesus till he resembles them, then worship themselves promote that version of Jesus. It’s an imaginary version, but they’re okay with that. They figure our version is imaginary too. (And when we don’t bother to study Jesus as he really is… well, it’ll mean they’re not wrong.)

So what do we do with them? Shake the dust off our feet.

I know: Plenty of Christians hate that instruction. I can’t help that. It’s what Jesus told us to do.

Mark 6.10-11 KWL
10 Jesus told them, “Whenever you enter a house,
stay there till you leave the place.
11 Whenever a place won’t accept you, nor listen to you,
shake off its dirt from under your feet while you leave, as evidence to them.”

Bluntly, these Christians figure it feels like we’ve cursed them. Like we told ’em, “You won’t listen, so you won’t be saved; you’re going to hell now.” As if we have the power to make such a determination. Only God can; and God doesn’t necessarily.

For the most part, having your dust shaken off is a wake-up call that you’ve gone too far. True, pagans will mock the behavior. But some of that mockery will sometimes be because it’s the only way they can think of to shut up their conscience, which is really bugging them right about now. ’Cause the Holy Spirit is working on them, making them seriously doubt their nontheism.

And if they finally do repent and turn to God, first thing they’ll wanna do is make really sure that dust-shaking stunt no longer counts. And no, it won’t anymore. Grace means the door is always open. Our “final acts” are only as final as God lets ’em be.

So shake ’em off. Leave them for the Holy Spirit to deal with, and go find some open-minded pagans to talk to. They’re a blast.