12/19/12 Jason about 25
I asked a young man at a Starbucks, with dozens of piercings and jewelry and tattoos all over his face and neck, about his beliefs. “I believe there’s got to be a heaven, because I’m going through hell right here on earth” he told me. He felt he had hit rock bottom. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay my phone bill, or where I’m even going to sleep tonite.” Jason, an African-American, grew up in a Baptist family. “I gave Christianity a chance, about a 50% effort, but it didn’t do anything for me” he said. He now has the idea that God made us as part of some cruel experiment to see how we will react. He blamed God for treating him unfairly and making him suffer for his mistakes. “I would never commit suicide, but every day I wish I could die” he said. “Does God owe you anything?” I asked. Jason agreed He does not. “Did you know better when you made the choices that have brought you to this place in life?” Jason said that, for the most part, he did. Slowly over the course of a long conversation he began to see that the blame for his problems belongs to himself, not to God. Should I have emphasized God’s love instead? Undoubtedly Jason had already heard about it, given his upbringing in a churchgoing family. But a common error that many churches make is that God’s love for man has been over-emphasized to the exclusion of His love for justice. Jason’s expectations of what God could and should do for him had created tremendous bitterness when things didn’t go his way. He was in a vicious cycle of blaming God that could only end when he began taking responsibility for his decisions himself. As we talked he began to accept that his predicament was a rightful consequence of his sin and may even be a timely lesson to help him change his ways. He seemed to understand the Gospel, but showed even more understanding of the heart of his problem, his own selfish pride– “I just can’t accept it, I’m too stubborn and proud to change my ways” he finally said. Maybe he hasn’t reached rock bottom after all.