5/26/13 Tony about 30
I stopped a man named Tony who was headed into a bar in Chicago’s University Village by asking if he would answer an interesting question. He turned out to be another of several people I’ve met lately who believe religion is just a tool devised by certain secret societies to control the masses. He believes only certain extremely rich and powerful people are invited to be a part of these groups, so he doesn’t think he could ever be in one, but he is determined to not be one of the ignorant, clueless masses who are controlled by them. He had an extreme paranoia and mistrust toward any religious or secular authority and doubted that any historical accounts can be trusted. He had just been talking with a friend about one of the groups and reading about it on his smart phone, and thought it just might be possible that I had overheard him and had come to check up on him. I can see how this sort of paranoia can so easily undermine a person’s ability to trust the Bible or any sort of spiritual truth or authority, yet I was able to go on from this sort of beginning to share the Gospel in a way that truly challenged Tony to wrestle through his own relationship with God and eternity. I’ll share here a few steps that helped me to be able to do that. 1.) I spent about 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning “earning the right to be heard” by asking some essential questions and being a good listener without being judgmental; 2.) I acknowledged that man does indeed have a tendency to “invent religion” and that we can only avoid imaginary ideas about God by getting our information from an outside source. For all his suspicion of religion, Tony did believe in God and agreed that the only way we could truly know about God is if He reveals Himself to us; 3.) I pointed to the major world religions as the only possible credible sources that claim to speak the truths that God reveals about Himself; 4.) I used the Ten Commandments to help Tony see himself by God’s standards rather than the world’s, and explained how biblical Christianity is the only one of the world’s religions that allows God to demonstrate both His perfect love and His perfect justice at the same time, through the work of Jesus on the cross. While we were talking, several of Tony’s friends came by, wondering why he wasn’t joining them. “I’ll be there in a little bit” he kept telling them. I believe what really kept him in the conversation was my logical use of the Ten Commandments to help him see his need for forgiveness. To him, religion had been an invention of man, and the God he believed in surely wouldn’t condemn him for breaking the petty rules of religion. But the fact that he has gone against his God-given conscience and done what he knows to be wrong was an all too real fact he couldn’t deny. He needed some answers to how he could be in a right relationship with God. He eventually did leave to join his friends in the bar, but from the look on his face I believe his mind was elsewhere.