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Thursday, January 16, 2014

fate

So there I stood, in the sandwich line, contemplating white or wheat when a voice spoke up from behind me:
"Is this the only place to eat around here?"
I turned to find a  tall man with a military haircut and a very confused look on his face.
I smiled.
He smiled back.
"I just arrived here. This is my first semester at school."
Next thing I knew, we were seated outside, eating our sandwiches together, and I was telling him everything freshmen know about my University...which, as it turns out, isn't much.
"...so are you religious?"
My head snapped up from my almost-empty bag of chips.
"um...I wouldn't call myself religious. I'm more...spiritual."
"but you're a Christian?"
"Yes."
The conversation progressed and I began sharing what I know about my faith. He would ask questions and relate painful stories about combat in the war, and I would answer and listen carefully to the hurting man's past.
Two questions he asked stuck out in my mind:

1. What about the people stranded on an island who've never heard about Jesus? Do they just go to hell? What's the deal with hell anyway?

This, I thought, was a God-thing, because I've struggled with this question more than any other in my walk with Jesus. I told Brent what I had come to conclude without being entirely sure about my answer.
"I think that God can reveal himself through His Creation (Romans 1). I know that God is loving and He desires that all come to know Him. I think that there are people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God that we haven't discovered. That said, ultimately, because we aren't perfect, we're separated from the perfect God. We deserve hell, because we constantly reject God in favor of our own desires. He would have to deny His own perfection to accept us in that state. Therefore, in His great love for every single human life, he sent his only Son to die...and anyone (really anyone) can choose to let Jesus' record of perfect cover their record of imperfection and every sin they will ever commit. It's a story of mercy and grace, not a story of condemnation; all they have to do is believe and take the first step toward following Jesus. To answer his question, I had to answer yes, those people go to hell if they do not choose Jesus. I don't understand it, but I've experienced God's goodness and I know that He is good and He is just. It isn't just that any of us should receive eternal life in paradise. It isn't just that I should have the option. Hell is just."
Brent was a little disconcerted with my answer, and so was I, but I felt a strange sense of confidence that what I said was truth.

2. Isn't Christianity narrow-minded and arrogant? How can you say all those other religions are wrong?

I surprised myself with this answer...it literally came from nowhere.

"It's an awfully small god who's willing to share glory with all the other gods that are out there. I want to worship a God so big, powerful, and worthy that He's unwilling to share that glory with any other. People say Christianity is a narrow mindset, but I think they're being narrow-minded when they claim that one way to heaven couldn't possibly exist."

Every answer was the result of a lot of wrestling with God and seasons of doubting His goodness. Many tears contributed to those conclusions. It was so fun to discuss religion with someone who was open. I have no idea where Brent is right now, but I'm thankful to have met him.

By the way, I chose wheat.

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