10/23/12 Tom, 62
Before I began to actively engage strangers in Gospel conversations, I had a lot of misconceptions about people and God that could only be corrected by putting my faith into action and finding out for myself.. A 62 year old biology teacher at a Catholic high school named Tom took time to talk with me at the park today about his beliefs. He later told me why he hadn't just ignored me and kept on walking: "I consider myself to be a good person and that means I try to treat others like I want them to treat me, so I decided to stop to talk with you." In that statement are two important truths about people that have both surprised and shocked me since I first started to initiate witnessing conversations. First, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to find out that most people desperately want to see themselves as good person's, to the point that, if they have the time, they really will talk to strangers about their faith if approached in a respectful manner. Before I thought people would be greatly offended by questions about their beliefs, but this has been rarely the case. Second, I was shocked at just how tightly people hold to their belief in their own goodness. The vast majority, church people included, believe that if there is a heaven, they are good enough to go there. Tom had told me the same thing. He wasn't offended when I told him that well over 97% of the people I talk to give me the same answer. "But if we could get to heaven by our good works, why did Jesus die for our sins?" I asked. "Would God have allowed His Son to suffer and die on the cross if there was some other way we could be forgiven?" "But surely our good deeds have to count for something!" he responded. Tom was still looking for something, anything, that would set him apart as being deserving of salvation. He reminds me that we need to be both shocked and surprised by the vain pride that people feel about their own goodness; shocked by the way pride distracts people from Jesus, but surprised and grateful at how it is this same pride that very often allows us to talk to them about Him.