8/20/11 Tim and Tom, early 20's
I was at a hotel for a work-related training conference and found two young men sitting outside to smoke so after some small talk I asked them about their beliefs. Tim and Tom are Asian-American brothers and grew up Catholic. Both stated they believe in some sort of higher power but don't think they will continue to exist after they die. Tim did most of the talking. He has never read the Bible but had a lot of strong opinions about it. He thinks Christianity is just a story used to control other people and keep them in their place. I listened to his various theories but didn't attempt to argue about what would easily have led only to side issues and rabbit trails. Instead I kept asking essential questions in response to his statements, showing him that I was really listening and processing what he said. As he went on his shallow thinking became evident, and he soon asked what I believe. We talked a long time about the Gospel based on two presuppositions: 1.) I didn't presume to have convinced them of anything at any point, assuring them I realized they didn't necessarily believe what I said but that they were simply affirming that they understood what I was saying... and 2.) I asked them to just assume for a moment that the Bible is true, and on that basis I explained what it teaches about how they stand before God's righteous standard. In an intellectual sense, Tom was concerned that he would indeed be condemned for his acts of rebellion against God's rule and he appreciated what Jesus did on the cross. However, at a much deeper but essential level he was missing the foundational beliefs that true faith in Jesus must be built upon - the fear of the Lord and affirmation that God has every right to hold us accountable to His standards.