12/10/13 Tim 23
A young man at the grocery store named Tim, 23, told me he believes he will go to heaven for three reasons: 1.) He goes to church every Sunday; 2.) He is a good person; and 3.) All his close family members are very active in church. No mention of the cross or repentance or faith in Jesus. Since he is an active church attender, I decided to put the question another way: “Let’s say I had come up to you here like this but I had said that I knew you go to church and I wanted to know how one can go to heaven when they die. What would you tell me?” He didn’t know. The best he could come up with was “Come to church and find out”. But I wonder, if Tim didn’t find out after growing up attending church, how could a newcomer expect to find out? Yet, a newcomer might have some advantages over a long-time church attender. They haven’t been immunized by familiarity. They haven’t heard religious terms so many times that they have lost their meaning. For example, many church-attenders no longer stop to think that being “saved” means that the horrible alternative is even possible. If we are saved, what are we saved from? Like the pious Jews of Jesus’ day who said “We have Abraham as our father” (Luke 3), salvation seems like a given, as if they are entitled to it by association with family members, as Tim demonstrated in his initial response. I explained this to Tim: “It’s a great blessing to grow up in a church family, but it can be a curse in some ways too. God doesn’t have grandchildren. We each need to have our own right relationship with him. It can be hard to take ownership of your own faith and to have your own relationship with God.” I think being confronted with some crucial questions and hearing the Gospel from a stranger away from the familiar church setting – in a grocery store of all places – gave Tim fresh ears to hear the truths of the Gospel. He left determined to read his Bible for himself and to answer some of those questions I had asked him.