4/3/13 Mario 25
I parked outside a Dunkin’ Donuts next to a Harley Davidson decked out in all its glory, complete with Roman chariot scythe blades coming out of the wheel hubs. Inside, its owner, Mario, sat looking just as fierce with his leather jacket, ominous-looking club insignia, full beard and handkerchief headband. He glared around the store, looking like he was just daring people to mess with him. He did look a little out of place in the bright lights of the donut shop, but still, he did look intimidating. However, one result of witnessing regularly is I’m learning to look past the outer shell and see people as God sees them, as souls in need of redemption. I was glad I carry million dollar gospel tracts for just such an occasion, and it put a big smile on his face when I gave it to him. I explained that it’s a fun collector’s item but with a serious question on the back – “Will you go to heaven?” He laughed as he said, “No, I’m probably going to hell, I’ve been baaad man.” Now I’ve also learned that the few people who do say they will go to hell when I ask this question really don’t believe it, especially when they say it with a smile on their face. They either deny it exists, or they thoughtlessly say with bravado something about “partying with the devil” (usually when in front of some friends), or they think that maybe in the eyes of church people they would go to hell but God knows their heart and would not be so unfair. For Mario, it was a combination of all of these. He said “I gave up on religion a long time ago. All I believe in now are my boys” referring to the Harley club he rides with. I asked how God might judge him, outside of his rejection of religion. “Are you basically a good person?” He thought a minute and said “I mean, I do a lot of bad s_____, but God knows I don’t really mean it. I think He knows my heart. He knows I have good intentions.” “So what are your good intentions?” He couldn’t think of any. I continued, “An important question is, what is the standard God will judge us by? If He compares us to other people, well, we can always find other people doing things much worse than us. Just pick up any newspaper and read about them. Sometimes I think that’s why we like to read about the horrible things people do, it makes us feel better by comparison. But God has different standard – His laws, like the Ten Commandments. How would you be judged by them?” Mario had assumed his major sin was his rejection of religion. But looking at individual laws helped him to see his sin was, well, sin. He would be judged by God not primarily for lack of beliefs but for his sinful actions against what he knows to be right. He could no longer blame God for being unfair. I helped him to see this in a simple, logical way, but he understood the implications, and I think “it started to get too hot in the kitchen” so he said he had to leave. I didn’t get to share the good news about Jesus, but he had enough church background to know the rest of the message and besides, I think he heard what he needed to hear for now.