Atheists are too often vilified by Christians. We perceive them as unusual enemies of God and consequently ourselves as the defenders of the faith. As a result, we do each party an injustice. In efforts to convert atheists, Christians have lost love in the process. Love always protects and it is love that casts out all fear.
People often fear what they do not understand.
Then because we do not want to get close enough to understand we determine for ourselves what the truth must be about the other group. Next, we form arguments to show how our thinking is superior to theirs. Of course, we know better than to think ourselves superior, but we often fall into that trap as well. All the while we haven’t even come close to what they actually believe.
Since our arguments are designed to address the structure of thought we have imposed upon them, it is seen and heard in a different light than our intended purpose. It’s like arguing that the grass is green to someone who is arguing that the sky really isn’t blue.
One of the best ways we can love atheists is not to assume we know how they think.
Nobody likes to be the object of assumptions, and assumptions are almost always wrong. This creates an endless cycle of misunderstanding.
Love by being a good friend
Next, love by being a good friend. Stop looking at an atheist as someone who disbelieves or disagrees or whatever other labels that comes to mind. Start looking at the atheist as a person just like you, that lives in the same world as you. It is a wonder the way we think we ought to lose civility when we disagree with someone over religious matters. Rudeness and disrespect have no place in the life of Jesus or in the lives of those who claim to know Him.
Most atheists, who are willing to be known as such, have heard the gamut of Christian responses. They have heard: you must be angry with God, you must have been hurt by the church, you must have grown up without a father, you are going to hell, Jesus loves you, try my church, and on it goes. If you want to love atheists, don’t be one more person adding to the list of pat responses.
Learn to care about them as people and stop letting their atheism keep you on a warpath of bringing them to faith. If you cannot be the love of Jesus, you don’t have grounds to talk about the love of Jesus.
No emotionalism and disrespect
Lastly, if your atheist friends want to talk about God, do so without emotionalism and disrespect. Share how you realize that you know Jesus and what that life with Jesus is like. But do not belittle them for their way of thinking. It is love that perseveres because love continues without any conditions. We are not to turn our love off because someone refuses Jesus. We would be in a world of trouble if Jesus did not love us, before, and regardless of whether, we loved Him.