Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some questions hit hard!

If you believe there is a heaven and hell, . . . how much do you have to hate [a person] to not proselytize? To believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell people? This man cared enough about me to proselytize.
- Penn Fraser Jillette (Atheist / Magician)

This is not a sermon.
It's also not an accusation. It’s just a meditation.

We heard the words quoted above in church last week.
As intended, they got my attention. But as likely not intended, they also distracted me from the rest of the sermon.

The question in those words kept running around in circles inside my head. And since I had no good answer to throw at it to scare it away, it just kept running and running and running.

If you believe in eternal Heaven and eternal Hell, how much do you have to hate a person to not tell them about it?

Well, obviously (at least I hope it's obvious) it's never really a matter of hating someone so much you can't wait for Hell to swallow him up.

But it is a matter of something.

And this something must be incredibly significant to keep us so blatantly and consistently disobeying both the Lord's direct command and basic human decency.

So what is it?
I don’t know for sure. But I have a few ideas.

Could it be doubt?

Not telling people the Truth makes so little sense to me that, when I don't proselytize, it makes me wonder if I really truly believe the Truth.

This is a terrifying possibility.

Is it possible that I like to think I believe what the Bible teaches about God, people, Satan, reality, the present and the future - but that I don't really truly believe it?

I live in tornado country. For a couple months every year there is a very real possibility that swirling winds could rip through my home and destroy everything not lying flat on the basement floor.

Luckily, we have sirens that go off when one of these monsters has been sighted and is near. But even when the sirens are blaring and the weatherman shows scary graphics of tornadoes coming right at me, I almost never grab everything I value and dive down the basement steps.

You see, I believe a tornado is coming. But until I hear the roar and feel the house shake, I don't really believe it's coming. And if it's not really coming, the whole basement thing is much too inconvenient to bother with.

Could it be the aversion therapy is working?

Let's be honest. Our culture is saturated with the idea that anyone who really lives out their faith with conviction and passion is either a loon or a moron.

The more I’m aware of it the more I notice it, especially in TV shows and movies. If there’s a Christian character, odds are he’s a creep, hypocrite, idiot, weasel, coward, or unbearably judgemental SOB.

Opinion-shapers in America today seem terrified of serious faith and do everything they can to make it as repulsive as possible. 

And in my opinion, they’re succeeding - with the general population, certainly, but even with believers.

The problem is, when we buy into this imagery, it affects how we act. How many of us want to see ourselves as insane, obnoxious, despicable, pathetic or repulsive? 

Could it be that we assume too much?

Our world is not the world of the first century where early Christians got to tell the Truth for the very first time to people who had never heard it.

Our hearers have almost certainly already heard it and rejected it. So why, we may ask ourselves, bother them with it again?

Or could it be a matter of ruts?

I often think how much simpler it would be if I could just start fresh. If I moved to a place where no one knew me, I could easily reinvent myself as a proselytizing kind of man.

But that’s hard to do in the world I already inhabit.

We work out a routine, a way of being in relation to others that a shift to proselytizer would probably upset.

If others have come to know me as the serious hard worker, or the always funny guy, or the quiet keep to myselfer - would they be able to suddenly shift all that prior knowledge into seeing me as “spiritual guide”?

And wouldn’t they legitimately ask not only “Why are you telling me this?” but “Why are you telling me this now?”

I’d have no good answer for that.

To be honest, I have a few more thoughts on this topic, but I’m going to practice self-control and not “meditate” on them just now. So, more to come.

Thank you for reading!