There’s this guy who lives in the neighbourhood. We met last night at the park near our house. He’s a very friendly guy. By that I mean, as I suppose most people do, that he willingly and easily strikes up conversation with almost anyone. We start talking. He asks me if I am still doing church work. When I tell him I’m not, he hardly bats an eye. But I know that makes a difference for him. I first met him through another friend and she made sure he knew that I was a pastor. That seemed to make a difference for him at the time – in what way though I am not sure…
At our poker games he used to show up and down a couple of pops with us. He would usually proceed to tell us a few lewd or racist jokes. He loves motorbikes. Stitches redneck on his underwear if he wears any…
So we’re talking right. And the conversation slips unprompted over to religion.
This is a conversation completely familiar to me – predictable.
He says religion is fine for those who want it, need it, but look at all the mess it makes – like overseas. Yup, I agree. He says prayer doesn’t work ‘cause he asked my friend to pray for his buddy’s cancer test and it came out positive – so there must not be a God. He says that religion is about keeping rules that don’t seem to make sense (why can’t some people play baseball on Sunday – but watch the whole game on television). He says there’s a ton of hypocrites. He says its confusing which religion is the right one. They’re all teaching the same thing. He’s figures he’s pretty well off with the principles that he lives by – caring for other people, etc. He says if he ever did go to church it would be with people like my friend – someone who he feels comfortable with.
All the classic excuses and even an indication of opportunity...
Come on four spiritual law this guy – he’s ready!
Oh it gets better!
He admits that as a dad he loses his patience with his kids. He also tells me of the bender he went on last night. Perfect. Here’s an opportunity to tell him about the difference that being a Christian can make.
But wait – I lose my patience with my kids and even though I’m smug enough to think that my loss of patience is less harmful than his – I am uncomfortably aware of my own hypocrisy. And though I may not have polished off 15 beers and a bucket of rum sauce – I too could recount the excesses of my own choices.
So I tell him that following Jesus for me is not so much about answers, behaviour cures, or (hollow) miracle solutions to life’s problems. I tell him it’s about living some proven principles that not that unlike his own. I also tell him that he should follow his instincts about church. He definitely should check out a church with people he likes to hang out with. It’s nice to know that following Jesus is something that my friend is good at. Her and her husband’s relationship with this guys and his wife means the best opportunity that he has to experience the transformative power of Jesus’ lifestyle. It makes me happy to see that at least in this way living Jesus’ way has made a difference already.
I didn’t pounce on the evident weaknesses – I’m not ready for that.