This is a story from my past:
This was a crazy week.
There were so many things happening at that time, that it would waste way too much of your time explaining it. My emotions were bouncing back and forth from anger to despair, and then eventually to pity(for myself). To be honest, I had myself to blame. Whether anyone else was at fault in any of what was going on, frankly didn’t matter, and neither does my opinion of that moment in time. I do have an opinion, but its best to keep it to myself.
What made this week so crazy was that, at the same time I was shooting myself in the foot, I was also engaged in a conversation with a co-worker about the validity of the Christian faith. Here I am, having a moment in my life where I feel the least Christian I have since, well… I became a Christian, and I’m in the position of defending this faith, and for some reason, as I remember it, doing it with enthusiasm. I felt like a jumble of paradoxes.
During that time in my life, I struggled to pray, and I wrestled to read anything, let alone my Bible. Now, there’s never been a day where I felt like, “I’ve really got this Christian thing together!” Yet, here I was, taking on the terrible task of trying to defend this faith that I’m not even good at, but what the heck.
My co-worker and I have had these exchanges before. It started when they told me about this “wacky Christian” they were dating. Soon after that conversation, we would go back and forth on our breaks, and then also by email. We jockeyed back and forth with our positions, each being sure we finally got the upper hand in the discussion. I soon learned that they weren’t as interested in Christianity as they made me believe, but really just wanted to disprove the whole idea of God. They would dance around the Old Testament, cherry picking the best scripture to make the arguments stick. At some point, I gave them one last gospel pitch, and left it hoping that God would do what God would do, and call them His own. That was probably well over a year ago. After that, we would see each other in the halls, and make little jokes about our beliefs, and then move along on our merry way.
That was it really, until one week-that crazy week-I mentioned, during a long past Easter season. I don’t know why I did it, but I sent them a little message to see if they’d be interested in coming to a Good Friday service. I’m sure my thought was that maybe they really were curious. Along with that, was a desire to connect my friend with someone who could discuss these apologetic matters better than I. Not to “one-up” them, but to honestly engage them with someone who actually thrived on these kinds of conversations. I didn’t intend to get into any more debates or discussions with them. I figured they’d either just say no, or ignore the message. But, things don’t always go as planned and soon we were back at it. I was encouraged this time by their willingness to keep the focus on Jesus. That hope was dashed when they leveled me with the accusation that Jesus never existed, backing up those claims with an atheist website “proving” this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The last major email felt like a gift. Titled, “You have your work cut out for you”, their email was basically a New Testament smorgasbord of Jesus sayings. I responded the best way I could, trying the make the point that I’m just as guilty of failing in the areas (something that I was intimately aware of THIS particular week), and as always, I thanked them for the opportunity to talk, and tried to leave the door open. I don’t claim any special ability in this, but I tried as best as I could to be gracious and kind. My hope is that I did this. I can tell you one thing. As much as they were arguing about all the WORK you had to do as a Christian to go to Heaven or get to God, I was utterly surprised at the last email. This is the body of that email:
“You are so closed minded that you don’t even realize it. I think its sad that you believe. By the way John 3:16 is the worst of the bunch,
It’s only requirement for entering heaven and attaining eternal life is to just believe in Jesus.
There are no character or moral requirements.
Adolf Hitler can get in, anyone.
Any mass murderer, pedophile and even the blasphemer on their death bed (remember these human were also been given the “gift of free will” to sin) can get in.
I’m thru discussing this topic with you.
Not because I concede, I don’t want to waste anymore brain cells. You don’t show any desire to even understand the other side.
You offer no proof, just excuses.
I am blocking your emails.”
As I read these words, my heart sank. I wanted so badly to say, “YES! YES! YES! ANYONE! EVEN ME!” It’s amazing that my co-worker stood so close to the truth, and yet so far away. I was amazed that they would first tell me how HARD Christianity made it for people to get to Heaven in one email, and then get exponentially angrier at the concept that it really isn’t that hard at all. Then I remember:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
I’ve had “give and take” with people who didn’t accept what the Bible had to say, but this was the first time I personally experienced a sense of hate for what it has to say. It’s the only way to describe it. I’ve been told that their strong reaction is an indication that a nerve was struck. The fact that they weren’t simply apathetic should give me hope. My thought back then, was that I didn’t feel particularly puffed up for my “good defense” of the faith, but saddened by the rejection of the truth, and the harshness of the reaction to that truth. I know at this point all I can do is pray, and I will.
As I close, I am reminded of a pastor friend who told a story of a guy he was sharing the gospel with, and he could see the moment it clicked in his head(paraphrasing). In that same vein, I can see the moment my friend rejected the truth of the gospel.
But I do have hope.
As long as anyone has breath in their lungs, God can plant faith, and make them His own.
So I pray and hope…
And you should too.