Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leaning In for Clarity

Part 6 of this story series ...

A favorite saying around our church is to "lean in." Basically, it means a willingness to surrender all control to God -- to lean into His chest -- and let Him handle a situation for you.

On that day, when I felt that an atheist's question was too tricky to answer, I leaned in. I prayed for a few hours for clarity, for wisdom -- and also for a loving response, because to be quite frank, by this time I'd had it with the guy.

When the answer came, I wasn't sure that I'd understood Him correctly.

He brought to mind how He'd been faced with many similar trick questions. And the primary way that He dealt with them ... was to answer questions with questions. You remember the most famous story, I'm sure ...

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?'

'Caesar's,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'"

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."

"That's a great story," I prayed, "but what question am I to ask?"

The answer was as clear as the sun shining outside of my window, and yet ... the meaning behind it still stumped me. "Just do it," He spoke to my heart. "Just ask it."

About two hours later, I was sitting with my laptop open to Twitter, when the atheist pinged me again. This time, he wasn't alone. He'd solicited backup from a second anti-theist. A third person, who is a friendly atheist I know from Twitter, was also in on the discussion.

"Are you ready for round two?" he asked.

"Let's go."

"So ... did you get your answer? What is it? Am I going to Heaven, or to Hell?"

"I'll answer your question, but first you have to answer one for me." I typed.

Nothing changed on the computer screen for several minutes. I didn't know if he was consulting with the others or was just deciding whether this was worth his trouble. Then he responded. Yes. He'd take the question.

So I typed the question that God brought to my heart.

"OK. The question is ... Do you believe in good and evil?"

Now it really was quiet in Twitterland. It took what seemed an eternity before I saw a response. And as I waited, I prayed. I asked God, "What am I going to do if they come up with an answer? I don't even know what to say."

"Just wait," He told me. "It will be clear to you."

The atheist pinged back something nonsensical ... about Donny Osmond and ... wow, I can't even reconstruct it. Suffice it to say, it was gibberish.

"That's not an answer," I replied. "It's simple, yes or no. Do you believe in good and evil, or not?"

The other two decided to try to help communicate for their buddy.

"What he's trying to say," one typed, "is that good and evil is not black and white. There are shades of gray. You might kill someone, and killing is evil, but if you're killing for a moral cause, it isn't."


Suddenly, it was completely clear to me why God prompted this question!

"So," my interrogator said, "I answered your question. Now you answer mine. Am I going to Heaven, or to Hell?"

I typed several Tweets to answer him -- after all, we only have 140 characters per Tweet. But this is what God prompted to me:

"You say that there is no way that we as humans can completely determine good and evil, that there are gray areas to both. If we as humans cannot determine it completely, how are we to judge whether an action is good or evil, perfectly? We can't. Because just like you said -- it can be a shade of gray. Now God is the perfect judge. And in Matthew 7:1, He tells us, 'Do not judge, or you, too will be judged.' He is the only one who sees good and evil and the shades of gray. He is the only perfect one to judge. Therefore, I don't know if you are going to Heaven or Hell. I am not your judge. God is your judge. He will decide where you're going."

Silence. Not a flicker of a word crossed the screen. Then ... suddenly ...


"I did answer the question. You just told me there is no way for us to know the difference from good and evil because of the grays. God is the perfect judge. God knows what will happen to you, and that's between you and God. By my Scripture, I am NOT ALLOWED to say whether you are going to Heaven or to Hell, because, like you said, we cannot fully know as humans what is evil and what is good."

He ranted some more, and I just looked at the screen and smiled.

Then, I did what I always do when God surprises me with an answer to prayer. I looked to my right, closed my eyes, and envisioned Him sitting next to me on the couch.

"Hey. Thanks."

"I told you that you didn't have to worry."

I sighed and smiled.

"You're the best."

So ... what is the point of this story ... and what does all of it have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tomorrow, tune in for the conclusion.

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