Heat and Light: An evangelistic conversation

March 25, 2003



Warmup Infrared Heatlamp

A lunchtime conversation today with one of my closest friends went from war to why he is an agnostic: “If there is no God, then it’s not an issue. If there is a God, he pisses me off. Like, why does he give people a choice and then punish them for making the wrong choice? Or this whole original sin thing: Why am I in trouble for what someone else did?”

For someone who is not a Christ-follower (or as I prefer to say, a “normal person,”) he is quite well-versed in this stuff. But extending my Lectio Divina meditation on “sin” versus “brokenness”, I’m beginning to think that the word “sin” and the concepts commonly associated with it in this culture render it unhelpful. In the case of my friend, they create a warped view of God that causes him to resent God.

“So do you think I’m destined for eternal torment?”

So I said, “I don’t think my worldview is quite the same as the worldview you disagree with.” I told him that the sin thing, as he’s bought into it, isn’t helpful. He shot back, “Well, you believe in good and bad, right?” Remembering past conversations with Jor, I said, “Not really. But we can talk about good for something, or bad for something.

After a while, he pressed me: “So do you think I’m destined for eternal torment?” I replied, “That’s not for me to say. But when you say ‘eternal torment,’ you have a mental picture of hell with all its connotations, which I don’t necessarily buy into.” He pressed me further, so I said, “This is what I think: If you walk away from the heat, you’ll get cold. If you walk away from the light, you’ll be in the dark.”

++ Jesus, draw my friend to you. ++

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Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

3 responses to Heat and Light: An evangelistic conversation

  1. Choice phrasing of The Choice
    thankyouthankyouthankyou! How evocative! That story speaks to me. We’re not being bribed, we’re not being coerced. As C.S. Lewis said, “If someday you don’t say Thy will be done, God will eventually say, ‘your will be done’ to us, and that will be eternal torment.
    “For a day in Your presence is far better to me than gold…”.

  2. Worthy discussion, Jon.
    It’s important for us not merely to assent to a creed and then publicly declare parts of that creed, but to draw people closer to God from wherever they are. If someone were to ask me if I thought he was going to hell because he won’t accept Jesus Christ, I would respond “I don’t know–what do you mean by hell?” What I’ve done in the past is say “I believe the only people who are going to heaven are those who want to be with God.” Your friend might respond to that by saying why he dislikes God, and then we could have a fruitful discussion.
    I’m not in favor of avoiding the term sin, but I am in favor of explaining things clearly. We believers and the media (usually secular) toss these terms around a lot, and they either lose their meaning or they become distorted. Sin means we’re needy. I’m still needy for God after 23 years, and I know that I will be all my life.

  3. Randy,
    I appreciate your pragmatism of working with people wherever they happen to be, and finding ways to open doors and keep the conversation going.
    I’m of two minds when it comes to words that lose their meaning. Part of me wants to reclaim the word and recast it in a new context for the meaning that is most helpful. Another part of me wants to discard the word and move on, but I don’t like losing something that used to be helpful. But whichever way I go, it’s because the meaning is more important than the word.