5/8/13 Martin about 35
Alone on the empty bleachers at a deserted baseball field, a man sat finishing off his KFC dinner. He looked like he might have some time to talk, so I went over to see if he would be willing to answer an “interesting question”. He looked skeptical. “What’s it about?” I’ve learned not to categorize my question, just to ask it, so I did – “What do you think happens after this life, what comes next, if anything?” “Well I don’t believe in anything, I think God is racist! What kind of loving God would kill all the other people except the Jews? It’s not fair!” He launched right into this angry tirade so fast I think it must have been fresh on his mind. He went on to vent his anger at other issues in the Bible, Church history, historical and current politics, and the declining moral values of our time. I tried hard not to interrupt and just be a good listener, for perhaps 15 minutes, asking questions and affirming that I understood, but not necessarily agreeing with everything. I could see one overall theme, that he – Martin – is angered and disgusted by sin and injustice, so I affirmed this in him and asked “Do you think God should be angered by sin too?” Martin agreed that He should, so I asked “So what do you think about Noah’s flood? Did God have the right to kill off all the men, women and children of the world?” Martin said “Well, He gives life, so I believe He has the right to take life also.” He knew that sin had run rampant in Noah’s time and that Noah had preached warnings of judgment for decades, but that no one would listen. Then I dug a little deeper in the foundation for our faith, back to the Garden of Eden. “In order to understand the Bible, especially all the difficult passages in the Old Testament where God uses Israel as his instrument of wrath, we have to understand our basic relationship to God. Genesis 1 tells us we are created in His image, but Genesis 3 explains that we are condemned for our rebellion against Him. God doesn’t owe us His love, He owes us His wrath. And despite our knowledge of good and evil – despite the consciences that we have been given – we still continue to rebel against Him in our sins.” Somewhere in his angry tirade, I had realized that Martin had been trying to justify himself by judging others – trying to make himself look better by making others look worse – and he has gotten so carried away with his criticism of others that he didn’t stop there and has even begun to stand in judgment of God! In order to help him stop judging others and start judging himself, I started asking specifically how well he has been following various commandments. Martin began to see his own need for forgiveness. The effect was amazing. In the end he couldn’t stop thanking me for stopping to talk to him. I thank God for the gift that the Ten Commandments are in helping people see their need for forgiveness in Jesus!