5/10/11 Tom, about 45
Active and continuous intentional evangelism keeps me constantly questioning my methods, motives, and beliefs, and I believe that's a healthy and necessary process. Finding the right balance between law and grace is one recurring theme. The world (including many church people) would say that any mention of our accountability to God and the punishment of hell makes me a party pooper at best and a hater at worst. Yesterday I read in Titus 3 that "...when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." At first glance it would seem then that what brings people to saving faith is God's kindness and love, and the conclusion is that we should do likewise. What this verse assumes though, is that before God's mercy, we were. in fact, not saved. We were condemned, as are those outside of faith in Christ. Somehow we were informed of our sinful condition and condemnation, so that when we heard of the forgiveness we can have in Christ, it was to us like "a pearl of great price". But to most people of the world who have a false belief in their own goodness, the need for forgiveness in Christ is more like the "pearl thrown to the swine" - they simply don't see the need for it. Wouldn't it be loving then to do the tough love of trying to help people see where they stand before God's moral law?
Yesterday I met Tom, a middle-aged man who was finishing a meal while on break from his work at the IIT campus. He had grown up in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but had abandoned the faith while in college. Tom believes in his own version of God, a god that has very low standards when it comes to sin. Someone would have to be a mass-murderer before he would be punished by Tom's god. Although I pointed out the high standards of Jesus and the rest of the Bible in regards to sin and judgment, Tom remained unconcerned. It may have been that he knew he didn't have time for a longer discussion, but I truly felt that he wasn't ready for me to talk about grace because he refused to be accountable to the law. I felt more like John the Baptist than Jesus in this conversation.