5/24/13 Sergio 30
A man named Sergio, 30, heavily decorated with tattoos and body piercings, was stretching out after a jog at the park when I walked over to ask him about his spiritual beliefs. “I think we just die and that’s it” he said. “God and religion are just man’s attempt to control others”. However, he did talk about other things that make him think there might just be a spiritual dimension to life – UFO’s, ghosts, and a strong sense of déjà vu. Sergio had grown up Catholic but as we talked it became clear that he really didn’t have a strong understanding of Christianity – so I asked if he would like me to explain it to him. “I realize the Christian faith can seem rather strange to someone looking at it from the outside. Why would people worship a man condemned to die 2000 years ago and dying on a cross? What’s it all about?” I asked. He really had no idea and welcomed my explanation with the understanding that he didn’t necessarily buy into it but just wanted to understand it. As I explained the Gospel Sergio was very much in agreement – about his sin, his guilt before God and the just punishment he deserved. He acknowledged that if Jesus was indeed the Son of God who was crucified for our sins, He would deserve our repentance, allegiance, and total trust. I don’t believe Sergio was just agreeing mindlessly; intellectually I think he truly agreed with every point I was making. Where should I go from here? I know many Christians and churches would at this point press Sergio for a decision for Christ to the point of having him repeat a prayer for salvation. But just because someone agrees with the individual parts doesn’t mean they will put it all together and see the big picture. Repeating a prayer for salvation that one really doesn’t understand could easily result in faith in the prayer itself rather than in the One prayed to. I’ve met far too many people on the streets who believe they are saved because at one point in their life they “prayed a prayer”, but when I ask them they no longer remember what prayer was about! It can become no more than a sort of magic spell, a religious ritual rather than a relationship. The well-meaning Christians who have them repeat the prayer become guilty of giving false assurance of salvation. The false convert, not having been born again, has no reason to want to grow and follow God further but every reason to become complacent about their eternal fate. At the beginning of our conversation, Sergio had said he didn’t even believe in God. We had covered a lot of ground in 45 minutes, but still I felt he couldn’t see the forest for the trees. He accepted what I was saying intellectually but I saw no heartfelt conviction. He hadn’t had time to process it. Toward the end I could see he was trying to do just that; he said a couple times “You’ve given me a lot to think about!” Where should I go from here? I agonize over how to end conversations like this. Because there are too many false converts, complacent because they have at one time been falsely assured of salvation, I err on the side of caution.