4/19/13 Kevin 19
A young man approached on the sidewalk with a prominent black eye that was hard to ignore. Kevin, 19, seemed troubled, but he stopped to answer my question. “What do you think happens after this life?” “I don’t think anything will happen, we just die. I would like to believe there’s a heaven, but I’ve sinned so much that I don’t think any religion would accept me, and I don’t want to go to hell, so I’d just rather believe we die and that’s all there is.” Kevin had an unusual degree of honesty and self-awareness. Later he also said “But I’m not willing to give up my sins, either. Maybe later in life, but not now.” Now I understand the general pattern of biblical evangelism is “law to the proud, grace to the humble”; but was this young man proud, or humble? On the one hand, he is humble enough to truly believe he would not deserve heaven, to the point that he chooses instead to deny the existence of both heaven and hell and just hope to rest in peace. But, on the other hand, he is too proud to turn from his sins even though he is well aware that he should. “Law to the proud” means holding up God’s word as a mirror to help a proud person see their true sinful condition. It is more than just stating “all have sinned”, because this is common knowledge; there is safety in numbers, and most people think that, by comparison, their sin isn’t so bad. It means helping personalize ones sin and comparing it to God’s holiness. Kevin believed that, by comparison even to other people, he is the worst of sinners, and my guess is that his refusal to repent is due to the hopelessness he feels in ever being able to follow through with repentance. He doesn’t know about the help given by the Holy Spirit to believers, or the support found in fellowship with other Christians. Ideally, Kevin could discover this in a local church, but my time there with him on the sidewalk was limited. I might never run into him again. What could I say? How could I encourage him not to give in to hopelessness, yet not downplay his need to repent? I think this is one place for our personal testimony to come in. Instead of confronting him with the Ten Commandments – and possibly causing more hopelessness – I applied them to myself instead. I was able to tell him how I have broken every one of God commandments in one way or another, but also how I have found forgiveness and hope in Jesus. Law to the proud, grace to the humble- the only way we can know when to emphasize one or the other is to take the time to listen.