4/5/14 Stephen about 40
Stephan, in a conversation at a park bench, told me he believes in God but isn’t religious. “I just trust that God will make sure justice is served in the end.” What he had in mind was that other people, much more sinful than himself, would get the punishment they deserve while the balance scales of God’s justice would find that he has done more good than bad and he would be rewarded in the end. No wonder then that he found no need to believe in Jesus, so I began to try to help him see he will need mercy, not justice, from God: “The Bible says in James that if you know the good you ought to do and don’t do it, that is sin.” Stephan was quick to respond with a list of his many good deeds, so I continued “But the key word in that Bible verse is the word “ought”. I don’t doubt you would help someone who, for example, fell and hurt themselves on the sidewalk here. But does that make you a “good” person, or would you only be doing the good you “ought” to do? Shouldn’t God expect us to use the health and time and energy and money He gives us to do good things?” Stephan agreed, and as I went on to talk about some of the things he ought not to do, he began to see that the heavenly “balance scale” he had envisioned would be weighed down with his sins, with no good deeds to even it out. “You can’t use the good you ought to have done anyway to pay for the bad you ought not to have done. It would be like trying to bribe the judge with his own money.” Along with using the Ten Commandments to help people see the personal nature of their sins against God, it is important to help them understand that true justice means that these sins can’t be “paid for” with the good we ought to do anyway. That’s a price that only Jesus could pay.