6/24/13 Paul and Tom 40's
After our early Sunday morning elder’s meeting and before our church service, I went for a walk to reach out to the neighborhood around our church. Two “good ole boys” on their front porch looked like they were still out celebrating the Blackhawks’ win from the night before, so I went over to talk with them and see what the Lord might do. Paul, beer in hand and somewhat inebriated, was very willing to talk religion though I knew full well this was very likely due to the alcohol in his system. He was an “apologetic atheist”, meaning he said he didn’t believe in God but, with tears, said he wished he could and by the end of our conversation said “Look in my eyes! Believe me! You WILL see me in church next Sunday!” I know better than to listen to drunken promises, but Tom, his friend, told me he would hold Paul to it. Tom wasn’t drinking and didn’t seem to be inebriated, but he had mostly just listened quietly while I talked with Paul. What got his attention, however, was my answer to a statement he made - “I’ve seen too many people become religious inside prison and then just forget about it once they get out. I always figure that if I’m not religious when I’m on the outside, why should I be when I’m in jail?” I responded “What you hate is the hypocrisy, right? And you know there are plenty of people in churches who act all religious on Sunday morning but forget about it the rest of the week. But being a Christian is more about being in a relationship with God than just being in a religion. Religion is all about rules and rituals, but a relationship is about two-way communication. How would you feel if someone said they were your friend but they never talked to you? Or what if they talked too much but never listened? Would you really have a good relationship?” Tom answered “No, of course not” “Well that’s what God wants, a right relationship. And knowing yourself you don’t want to only pray to God when you need something, you know that wouldn’t be right, so you avoid that kind of religion. But why not pray and pursue God here on the outside, when things are going good and you don’t feel hypocritical about it?” Tom totally agreed, and came down off the porch, becoming totally engaged in the conversation with many well-thought out questions about Christianity. I usually find that it is points of connection like these, said in response to a person’s beliefs or experiences that cause them to forget their apprehensions and get totally involved in conversation about the Gospel. We can’t plan their questions or our responses ahead of time. The fear of the unknown isn’t comfortable, but we just have to put ourselves out there and see what the Lord might do.