“Have you met my imaginary friend Jesus?”
That’s what the bumper sticker said. How would you respond?
I don’t have a clever comeback. An in-your-face retort is not the best response, anyway.
One young man I know shook his head and said, “That person‘s got their mind made up. Just walk away. There‘s no use talking to them.”
There‘s wisdom in his approach. Why waste your breath? Even Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Mat. 7:6)
But what if the person who feels this way is someone you really care about? What if they could use a friend like Jesus? Doesn’t the Bible say that we need to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have”? (1 Pet. 3:15)
I suppose those were easy enough words for Peter to write. He’d seen Jesus. He could confidently affirm, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (1 Pet. 1:16)
On the other side of the world, with a history, culture, economy, and society nothing at all like Jesus’, what can I possibly know about him?
All I can say is what he’s done in my own life. No one else has surprised, loved, angered, forgiven, and baffled me as He has. To see Jesus as an imaginary friend—that requires denying history, and far more imagination than simply telling what I‘ve lived.
Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.“ (1 Pet. 1:8).
Ask anyone who loves Jesus if they experience that joy. Then explain it. Imaginary friends are unique to their creators, but Jesus is a friend to millions. He’s real.