4/12/14 Erin about 25
In a sidewalk conversation, Erin, a grad student in urban planning, described herself as an atheist even though she doesn’t like that label. She had grown up in the United Church of Christ but had many doubts. Her mother was adamant that she complete confirmation, which she did, but then soon after rejected the faith.
She remembered one teenage conversation in particular with a believing friend that made her sure about this rejection. She had asked “If I and a horrible criminal, both of us unbelievers, were about to die but he became a believer at the last minute and I didn’t, who would go to hell?” to which her friend had responded “You would, because you didn’t believe in Jesus”. Erin told me she couldn’t believe in a God or a religion that was so unfair, so I asked “So you are basically saying that you are a better person than this criminal, right?” She hesitated, shocked, and said “Oh no, of course not!” I could tell this question caught her off guard, that it really helped her see that she in her unbelief had the same smug self-righteous attitude she would criticize church people for having.
She finally responded, “Well, maybe the criminal had some circumstances that made him that way.” Erin had chosen the easiest of three options: 1.) Our culture says we shouldn’t be judgmental, so she couldn’t bring herself to say she was a better person than the criminal. 2.) She believes herself to be basically a good person, so she couldn’t bring herself to say she was as sinful as the horrible criminal. 3.) So she went with the third option, to say that the criminal must have an excuse for his horrible crimes.
Erin had grown up attending church, and had rejected the faith because it seems unfair that people will be condemned for unbelief. But could it be that we were condemned long before that, for sinning against God just like a horrible criminal? I talked to Erin about how faith in Jesus is the way to salvation, rather than her idea that lack of faith is the way to condemnation. We are sinners, and were already condemned. There is a huge difference.