6/13/13 Manuel about 30
At a local baseball game a man named Manuel, about 30, agreed to answer my questions about his beliefs, and I was surprised when he told me he believes that if he died today, he would go to hell because of his sins. I was surprised because in my experience no one truly believes they will go to hell; it’s not the kind of belief most people can live with. Instead, people usually believe they are “good enough” to go to heaven, or they invent their own God who tolerates sin, or they deny God’s existence, among many other tactics to avoid uncomfortable thoughts of hell. (By the way, I’m uncomfortable even saying the word “hell” while witnessing or writing it in these stories, but it’s not supposed to be comfortable and ignoring it won’t make it go away.) But Manuel seemed to truly believe he is condemned, so I wondered how he could live with such a thought? For him, he comforts himself with the thought that although he wouldn’t presently go to heaven, he intends to change his ways; to be a responsible family man and husband. He is newly married and hoping to begin a family. His wife is a devoted Catholic and has been pressuring him to take religion more seriously, and he has been thinking that now is a good time to start. He was ready to hear the Gospel, but shocked to find out that the future good he intends to do can’t save him. He can’t “pay” for the bad he has done with the good he ought to do. What got his attention even more was when I explained that he can’t ride on his wife’s spiritual coattails, that God expects him to take spiritual leadership for his family. “Who will read Bible stories to your future children?” I asked. “What will they think about God when their own father isn’t sure about his own beliefs?” I asked these questions because I wanted him to realize the importance of taking the spiritual initiative for himself. Too many young men think they can just put off taking God seriously until later in life, and then just doing the bear minimum and leaving it up to their wives, becoming “spiritual couch potatoes”. Let’s pray Manuel isn’t one of them!