Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Best Offense is a Good Offense

I think I finally figured out what happened with the friendship with a very good friend of mine. In my best effort to not offend him, I really offended him. I was so worried about telling him that he would go to hell, that I described hell as a separation from God. In essence, I really offended him by presenting a completely unreasonable God who would send an otherwise good person to hell simply because he didn't claim the name of Jesus. Ironically, this actually offended him more.

He had been my friend for many years, and, like most of my high school friends, is a Jewish atheist. His judaism was more cultural than religious. I guess, looking back on my youth, I could have been considered a Christian atheist by that understanding. I identified myself as a Christian, but that certainly had nothing to do with actually living by God's word. During my early twenties, I toured around with the Grateful Dead, worked at the Rennaisance Faire, stayed out all night in Hollywood, and did generally anything else my pleasure seeking whims told me to do. This friend was with me for much of this, and probably knew me better than most people. I remember my father telling me about his sense of morality before becoming a Christian. He considered himself a good person because he had never actually killed anyone. I had a line as well, that as long as I was not crossing it, I was still a good person. I'm sure my line was way on this side of murder, but I don't remember what it was, as I changed it all the time to suit my behavior.

When I decided to become a Christian during this period of my life, I was much more of an intellectual Christian. I read the Bible and many books on apologetics and I could put up a strong argument for the existance of God. I considered myself pretty smart and, looking back, probably became a believer simply to add to my own accomplishments. I had some more ammo for me to be a mental bully. Looking at my behavior, I certainly had not repented, or really exhibited anything resembling the fruit of the spirit.

After this, I got married and started a family. I moved to the Valley, basically of suburb of Los Angeles. It was a long process, but daily reading the bible, I was eventually brought to a place of repentance and true faith in the Savior. I was still very much interested in sharing my faith with others, especially friends from my former life.

Recently I saw this friend at a birthday party for a mutual friend. Going back to a Hollywood party, I felt really out of place. I had turned into a family man, and here I was in the middle of a bunch of thirty-somethings still pretending they were twenty one. I was relieved to find someone I knew really well and sat down with him. I was actually excited to catch up with him and share what has been going on in my life.

Inevitably, the conversation turned toward God. His friend told me that he tried to believe in God, but could find no proof. Great, this was my arena now. I went into a diatribe about the many proofs for God and the Bible's accuracy: manuscript evidence, prophecy, archaology. He didn't accept any of it. And, then said that anyone who actually believes in God must be an idiot.

My friend said he could not believe a loving God would send someone to hell. I told him that if he spent his whole life avoiding God, then God would not force him into heaven for eternity. He would spend his eternity separated from God. He said, "That is hell, right?" Well, yes. I tried desperately to soften the reality of hell. I tried to make it sound like this loving, merciful God of mine wouldn't really be bad for sending a non-believer to hell. He said that he couldn't be more offended. If his mother, the nicest person in the world, would be sent to hell, and Dru Morgan, the person that he knew, would get to go to heaven, then there was absolutely no justice and he wanted no part of that God.

The idea that a God would take otherwise pretty good people and arbitrarily banish them to eternal punishment based on some silly criteria such as reciting a prayer to Jesus was completely abhorrent to him. And, as I've learned, should be completely abhorrent to you.


VangyBlue said...

God's message and his Word(s) do not leave void. My pastor said this last week that "a person never leaves a gospel (meeting or conversation) the same as they were before they came in (or talked to you)."

My pastor's wife is in Ireland at home with family for the birth of a new grandbaby. One of her son's friends came to the house and was obviously a drug user (and they knew he was). He was on something this night and he cursed in front of her. He found out from her son that she was a "pastor's wife" [as if that makes any difference]. The friend came over and apologized saying "if he knew she was a Christian he wouldnt have used foul language". He knew there was something different about Christians (their morals and godly lifestyle). She talked to him briefly [from what i understand] and wanted to talk to him about the gospel, but he was "on drugs" and so she felt it was useless (he wasnt in his right mind). Well shortly after that he left to a drug party or gathering and someone there encouraged him to try a new drug. two white tablets - smashed to powder. He took them and died immediately. She was so broken up about this because, as you know, she tried/desired to have a conversation with him about salvation.

This situation and the story between the two of them has touched people in America this week, and we are sure that it has touched the lives of those family members and sons of hers who are not saved, including extended family and any of their friends. God's word wont return void. It can even make a way for someone else to come along side them and have the "get right with God" conversation because today could be the last day of their life.

Chad said...


I can't tell you how guilty I am of the same thing. It's only since I've learned how to share my faith effectively that I realized that what I had done was wrong. I only pray that irreversible damage hasn't been done...

Shame on all of us for being so watered down in our Gospel presentation. I know that for me, it was simply a reflection of my own disbelief in the reality of the Gospel. Thank God for his faithfulness and grace!