7/22/13 Robert 36
A common criticism outsiders have of Christianity is that it is too good to be true, and people just take advantage of it for their own selfish interests. “What’s to keep me from just believing in Jesus and being “saved” but continuing on sinning regardless?” they ask. It’s a good question, but not a new one. In Romans 6:15, Paul asked “Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” He was writing to a church that had become “comfortably saved”, and had begun to view continued sin as just a way to display God’s mercy. Today I met a man named Robert, 36, who seemed to fit that category. He’s a big, fierce looking guy, bald with many tattoos. I walked up to him at a park district baseball game, but he was looking the other way and jumped when I first spoke to him. “I thought you were a cop, arresting me for this beer I’m drinking” he said, indicating the beer bottle in his hand which is illegal in Chicago parks. When he realized I was sharing the Gospel he quickly said “Oh I know all about that, I believe in Jesus”, but then he looked at his beer and said “Of course the demons also believe, and tremble, I know, but I really am saved” “I’d love to hear your story” I said, and he was happy to share it, telling how he had been “strangely warmed” at a church service while in jail, and had continued to follow God during most of his 15 years in the prison system. Now, that he has been out in the world again for several years, his walk with God has fallen by the wayside, and he showed no desire to revive it. “To be honest, I’m spoiled and I’m lazy. I always look for the easy way to do things. I stay out all night and sleep in half the day. There’s no way I could get up early enough for church, or to have the desire or discipline to read the Bible or meet with other believers.” As we talked he greeted numerous heavily involved gangbangers as they walked by, clearly displaying the same worldly mindset that they had, yet he talked a good religious talk with me, using a lot of religious jargon and correctly referring to various Biblical passages in the proper context and application. He showed no repentance for his worldly ways, yet still believed he is “saved” and heaven bound after he dies. If anyone fits Paul’s description of a person selfishly abusing God’s grace in Jesus, Robert would. I asked if he ever doubted that he is saved. “If I did have doubts, then I think I would lose my salvation.” he responded. I began to see he believes salvation depends not so much on the object of his faith – Jesus – but rather on the amount of his faith. In this way it seems that no matter how bad he acts - and there were times he boasted about this - his belief that he is saved regardless is somehow proof to him of God’s grace. Witnessing conversations like these help me understand these distortions of the Gospel that Paul was writing about. It also helps me understand how only the Holy Spirit, received when one is truly born again, can guide us past this selfish disregard for God’s grace.