“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' " Luke 17:10
8/11/09 Luis, about 30
After some casual conversation with my neighbor, Luis, I asked him about his spiritual beliefs. He told me he is a Christian, which surprised me because his lifestyle shows no evidence of commitment to Christ. A lot of people have different ideas of what it means to be “Christian” so I asked more about his beliefs. I asked what happens after people die and he told me “I think we will all go to hell.” He believes that since no one is perfect we will all have to suffer a little bit. God will dangle us in the flames to make us know how bad we’ve been. He told me that “some will only have to dip their feet in”. “How about you?” I asked. “I’ll have to put my entire legs in”. He told me he thinks it’s hypocritical to confess our sins to God and then just keep on doing them and that he’s not ready to repent, so he’ll just take whatever punishment he has coming to him. I asked what it might look like in his life to repent right now, before judgment, and he suddenly told me he had to get going. I think that last question might have hit a little too close to home, but I hope we can talk about it some more.
8/11/09 Whitney, about 20
As I left a hospital after a visit I heard a younger African American woman using a string of profanity to tell about the social dramas in her life to an older black woman, who was a patient audience. “Can I ask a few questions about your spiritual beliefs for a project I’m doing?” I asked, pen and paper in hand. After an awkward few seconds of switching conversational gears, the older woman began to share her Christian faith but the younger one, Whitney, jumped in with all the animated passion (minus the profanity) that she had used to describe her social life. She talked about our freedom to choose, ever since Adam and Eve chose to eat the apple breaking God’s orders, and how we are responsible for the consequences. As a young, unwed mother of two, she claimed to fully accept the consequences for her actions. She said she believed in God but was not ready to repent for her sins, knowing she didn’t intend to give them up. She believed herself to be a good person anyway, until she realized she had broken every commandment I mentioned. We talked a lot about repentance, that it is not a one-time event but an ongoing process, and how it is the appropriate response to what Jesus had done for her on the cross. I encouraged her to get involved in church again, even if she felt that many church people were hypocritical, so that she could have a spiritual family to raise her children in. After a long fruitful conversation, I prayed for God’s blessing on her and her children, and through her tears she thanked me for stopping to talk to her. I’m glad I did. As I drove out of the parking lot I looked to see the older woman giving her a hug.
8/12/09 Jesus and Chris , about 25
I used a survey approach to start a conversation with two young fathers watching their kids at the playground. I asked if they would answer some questions about their spiritual beliefs. Chris remembered me from a conversation I had with a group he had been in several weeks earlier. I asked what he thought about that encounter and he confessed he thought I was a little crazy, but I could tell from his attitude that he appreciated my efforts. He wandered away to take care of his kids, but his friend Jesus welcomed my questions. He told me he had checked out all the major religions and had come to the conclusion that they all worship the same “supreme being” and that they all follow basically the same code of ethics. I began to explain what the Bible teaches and he received it very positively. After a long two-way conversation I believe the Gospel was clearly explained and Jesus understands it. May God give him the faith and repentance needed for it to grow.
8/13/09 John, about 65
On my way into a store I noticed an older man, John, patiently waiting in his car for his wife to finish shopping. I had paper and pen in hand and walked over and asked if I could ask some questions about his spiritual beliefs for a project I’m working on. No response. He just kept looking straight ahead through his dark sunglasses. Several long awkward seconds passed. I decided that “silence gives consent” so I cleared my throat and began, “Well, do you believe in any sort of an afterlife?’ Again, no response. I was about to nervously restate the question when he answered quietly, “I don’t think so. Not any more.” I realized he had been thinking the question over carefully. “Do you believe there is a God?” I asked. “I used to, but now I don’t think so” came his slow, quiet response. I asked if there was one particular point in his life when he began to doubt. He really couldn’t say. He had learned about God in catechism class, he told me, but had never read the Bible for himself. He had no reason to be angry with God. “I don’t think I have much time left, but I have nothing to complain about”. We talked about our purpose in life. “I’ve thought about that, and I don’t know what it could be” he said. He was well aware of his own sins and said very thoughtfully “I think everyone has something in their past they are ashamed of.” As I thought of “law to the proud, grace to the humble” I felt that John was truly humbled at this late point in his life and needed to hear more about God’s grace. I talked about God’s love for us, but also God’s love for justice, and how by grace Jesus paid our sin penalty on the cross Thinking back, I wish I had shared even more about the grace that is only found in Jesus.
8/14/09 Mike, 23
This morning I heard an excuse I’ve never heard before. Most people try to excuse their sin by saying that its not as bad as other people, or that they are only human and everyone does it, or that their good deeds make up for the bad they’ve done. I met Mike for the first time at the weight room: he had come earlier than usual, and I had arrived late. Through casual conversation I knew he had a rough past on the streets, but despite his past he believed he was still a pretty good person. His excuse? “I did a lot of bad things, but I never took pleasure in them. I just did what I had to do.” Even after acknowledging he had broken most of the Ten Commandments, he believed he deserves to go to heaven because of the good he things he does – making people smile, going to work each day, loving his family, etc. I told him how the Bible teaches (in James 4:17) that we OUGHT to do good, that God expects it of us and we can’t bribe God into forgetting about our sin with the good that He rightfully expects of us in the first place, but Mike held tightly to his claim to goodness. He says he doesn’t think about being rewarded, he’s just naturally a good hearted person. Compared to his past, he may well be. But God has a much higher standard, and I pray that Mike’s pride won’t keep him from seeing it.
8/15/09 Andy and Rosie, 39 and mid 20’s
I met Andy and Rosie at an information booth for a local community center that they work for as resident artists. Andy is heavily tattooed and pierced and a self-described atheist. Rosie described herself as “spiritual” though she does not believe in God, and is also very committed to artistic expression, though not as heavily decorated as Andy. Our conversation lasted over two hours and is hard to sum up, but I can say that we covered a lot of spiritual ground and remained very respectful of one another’s beliefs. Andy grew up Jewish and Rosie grew up Catholic, but both had long since abandoned their parent’s beliefs. After listening to their current beliefs and asking some questions about many contradictions that they really hadn’t thought about, they asked me what I believe. I agreed to tell them if they would just try to listen to understand the Biblical world view, rather than trying to disagree point by point. I openly explained that I would definitely like to convince them to put their hope and faith in Jesus Christ because if I truly believe what He said about being the only way to a right relationship with God, then “what kind of a person would I be to keep it from them?” They had tons of questions, and I believe I helped change their opinion that many Christians judge outward appearances and force their beliefs on others without mutual respect.
8/16/09 Celia, 23
At church this morning I met and talked afterward with Celia, who was visiting for a second time. As of this writing she is “counting the cost” of repentance and faith in Jesus. Since some church members who will read this may know her or will meet her, out of respect for her privacy I want to leave out the details of our conversation, and instead just write prayer requests: that Celia will come to repentance and faith in Jesus; that her unbelieving family will respect her decision; that they will be led to faith in the Lord as well; and that Celia will find in our church a spiritual family that respects and nurtures her in a continual and growing faith relationship with Jesus. For my part I am grateful that my goal of everyday evangelism has helped me to be well prepared for a conversation with a young lady who is so close to entering into a right relationship with God through Jesus.