6/16/15 Doc about 35
How do complete strangers usually respond to a question about eternity? In my experience, there is a short awkward silence as they try to decide whether or not to respond and/or formulate their answer, and I have learned to fill in that silence with further clarification of the question. After getting permission to ask an interesting question, I ask "What do you think happens after this life?" At this point they usually look thoughtful, but it can be an awkward silence so I continue, "I mean, it’s an important question if you think about it. If there is an eternity we will spend a lot more time there than here in this short life - so do you have any beliefs about it?" By this time they usually have something to say. Sometimes they might say they don’t want to talk about it and walk away, but this only happens maybe 20% of the time. More often, we go on to a good conversation about it, but today the response from a man named “Doc”, who was finishing lunch at our grocery store café, was one that I used to dread. He challenged me with a question of his own - “Why do you ask?” I used to dread this question because I want to be completely honest about my intentions to share the Gospel, but I know my desire to “evangelize” has very negative connotations for many people – both outsiders and believers. But now, I no longer dread that question – I welcome it. It gives me a chance to share the basics of the Gospel! I generally say something like – “Well, I know I can’t prove anything about eternity - no one can - but as a person of faith I read the Bible and it says that we have a God who has given all of us a knowledge of right and wrong and to whom we will be held accountable, and I know I will fall short on judgment day if I rely on my own goodness or good efforts. But God has made a way for us to be in a right relationship with Himself, and that’s something I just can’t keep to myself!” At this point I usually try to find out what the person believes because our limited time together makes me want to speak directly to any areas of unbelief they might have, and I don’t want to assume anything about what they do or don’t believe. However, people who respond with a challenge to my question usually have a certain degree of negative bias, as did Doc. He explained that his Catholic in-laws have pushed their faith on him so much that the name “Jesus” seems to him like the expletive word “f_____” would probably mean to me. “If I said f____ over and over to you, you wouldn’t want to hear it right? Well that’s how I feel about the name “Jesus” but my father-in-law just doesn’t know when to quit!” he said. It was hard to hear but I tried to be a good listener and we went on to a good conversation that was unfortunately cut short by a sudden downpour on his car’s open sunroof out in the parking lot. But Doc’s initial challenge to my question proved to be a good opportunity that I would have been intimidated by years ago. Let’s pray for both the boldness and sensitivity needed to share the Gospel.