Deep, Shallow, and Bone Dry
Deep: The man and his wife are both retired from vocational Christian ministry. I don’t mean to say that sets them on a pedestal over Christians who work in other fields, but just that they are the kind of Christians who are deeply committed to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the kind we expect (and hope and pray) to find in full-time ministry. The hardship of suffering was in that room, but also the hope and joy of the Lord. We talked about how sweet it will be when all of the awful fruit of sin – the sickness, the suffering, the pain, the crying, the mourning, even death itself – will be swallowed up by Christ’s victory over the grave, a victory in which God allows us to be a part of through faith in Jesus Christ. We prayed, the sick man cried, and struggled to his feet to hug me before I left.
Shallow: She is a decades-long member of a church in our area where I had thought one could hear the gospel clearly presented. That’s why I was surprised to find us engaged in a very friendly argument about Christ’s mission and the nature of eternal life. I said something along the lines of Jesus coming to save us from our sins and give us eternal and abundant life. She responded with a little bit of a corrective tone, saying something about Jesus being a particularly spiritually advanced person. I said something about believers being confident of being with the Lord after death. She came back with that corrective tone again, saying that she is “looking forward to the next stage of the journey, whatever that may be.” She claimed a faith in Jesus, but it seemed a shallow patina of Jesus-talk laid over some sort of new-agey gnosticism, or something. It wasn’t the gospel. I prayed for her. Perhaps the Lord will bring more witnesses into her life. Maybe at church.
Bone Dry: He is a delightful person, with a great personality. He had listed his “religious preference” as “agnostic.” I asked him which kind of agnostic he is – the kind who says that if there is a God he definitely cannot be known, or the kind who is open to the idea of the existence of God but just hasn’t been convinced so far. His answer was surprising. He said, “O, I say that I’m open, but I’m really not.” He really seemed an atheist who doesn’t begrudge others their religious faith, which does set him apart from a lot of professing atheists I know, so maybe “agnostic” is his way of saying he is a tolerant atheist. I told him my testimony, which has very much to do with God’s “know-ability,” and how he makes himself known to those who are open to him. Good for me, he allowed. So the discussion shifted to the question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” My answer was that God is the only possible sufficient cause for the universe. His answer was “molecular biology,” which to me doesn’t quite answer the question of where the molecules came from. If any headway was made, I couldn’t tell, but we parted as buddies. He even said he might shock me some day and come to church – in the winter he can see our church from his home. “I won’t be shocked at all,” I said (but I will thank God).