2/25/15 Antonio about 65
“You’ve got to pay either way” a man named Antonio told me. “If you pay now you can go to heaven, but if you don’t, you will have to pay later” he said with great confidence as we talked at a Target store Starbucks. Antonio had agreed to answer my initial question about eternity, and he did so loudly and with so much conviction that I wasn’t sure that he would listen to the more biblical message of grace as opposed to his idea that one must pay for forgiveness with church attendance. Antonio is older, probably in his 60;s, and seemed very set in his beliefs. Could it be possible to communicate the good news of the cross without just getting into an argument? Patience…biting my tongue…focusing on areas of agreement rather than disagreement…winning the right to be heard. I asked Antonio about his religious background and whether he had read much of the Bible. “No, I just listen to the homily when I go to church” he said. “Well, I’m sure they talk about Jesus, right?” “Yes, they do” “And do you know why Jesus died on the cross?” I asked. “He died for our sins” “Right! So if we could somehow pay our way to heaven, why would Jesus have died for us?” Antonio wasn’t sure. “Instead of trusting in our own ability to pay for our sins, our trust needs to be in Jesus, who paid our debt in our place. Would you like to know more about what the Bible says about this?” He did, and we went on to a good conversation about the truths of the Gospel. Antonio was one of the more opinionated people I’ve talked with lately, but a little patience, a listening ear, a little grace – can go a long way in reaching a heart that has long since ignored the truths of the Gospel of grace. Romans 4 explains why we can't "pay" for the gift that is Jesus - "Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness."