Friday, October 05, 2007

Why the Cross is Foolishness to Those Who are Perishing

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14).

Earlier today, a brother in Christ from Tennessee, who hangs out at Adventures in Christianity (one of my favorite websites), shared an article from the October 3 edition of The All State newspaper, which is the student paper for Austin Peay State University. The article, written by staff writer Erin McAteer, appeared in the “Perspectives” section of the newspaper. I am going to share her article, in its entirety (minus a few instances of profanity). Please take time to read it. It serves as a sad, but important example of why modern evangelism methods just don’t work. It illustrates why talking to people about the love of God, without first explaining to people the consequences for violating the Law of God, makes the message of the cross appear as little more than foolishness, and even offense.

Before sharing Ms. McAteer’s article, I would like to say that while the “Christian” in the article did not properly share the Law and the Gospel with Ms. McAteer, at least she tried. Sadly, she was probably doing what she had been encouraged to do by her pastor, church, or the latest evangelism book she read—just tell people that Jesus loves them and be friendly when you do it. But at least she made an effort, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of those who profess to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Following Ms. McAteer’s article will be two comments posted on the paper’s website, in response to the article. While I cannot discern the true condition of either person’s heart, the comments serve as a good contrast between true and false conversion.

Following the comments will be the comment I posted after the article, which also served as my “letter to the editor.”

Here is Erin McAteer’s article:

Touched by a Witness
By Erin McAteer
Issue date: 10/3/07 Section: Perspectives

Recently, I had the pleasure to work at a local coffee shop (being a coffee junkie myself). I hadn't been so excited to work in well over two years. It was a prime opportunity to study people.

Little did I know that it would also be a test of my own patience and tolerance towards others.

I was working with one of the quieter employees one day. Nothing had gone wrong during that shift, as the customers were patient and complimentary. A woman walked in and ordered a simple drink. I wear a wolf pendant around my neck, a creature highly symbolic to me and to my beliefs. The woman, upon seeing my pendant, asked what it was. For a brief second, I forgot where I was - the Bible Belt. I blurted out, smiling, "My Spirit Guide, a wolf."

The woman was quiet for a second and then asked where I had learned of such a thing. I answered her questions calmly, excited that someone was curious about what I personally believed, though careful of wording because of possible resentment. After I had thoroughly explained, I turned to the next customer. My fellow employee nodded his head to the end of the counter where this woman was still standing. She held her cup, pondering a decision. As I approached her, she flipped her hair back, broadened her stance and smiled patronizingly.

"You know that Jesus loves you. That he's the light of this world and that he's done so much for you. I've been so happy since I've let him in my life. He's not forgotten about you."

I froze. I had heard this speech before many times in my life (I didn't grow up in a religious household but was always asked the question of faith and was told that Jesus loved me - I got that). I remained quiet, mentally counting and allowing her to talk. Acknowledging that her message had been delivered, she finally smiled and left.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

Later that night, the same women was standing in line behind some of the regulars. Except this time, she wasn't empty-handed. She held a bag from LifeWay Christian Stores. As she approached the counter, she pulled a book from the bag and handed it to me. A Bible. "I don't hope that you think this is too presumptious, but I wanted to help shed some light in your life. I marked Matthew for you to start reading."

I tasted blood in my mouth from biting my tongue. I took the book calmly and watched her walk out. Shortly thereafter, I went into the back hallway and screamed.

Generally, I'm a really laid back person. I believe that everyone can practice whatever they want, in any way that they want. It's part of freedom of speech and religion. It was the final straw for me though.

I just have a simple question: What makes people think that others need to be saved? Because they're different? Who the #*&@ sits around and thinks that they have to go around saving people? From personal experience, humans tend to be quite curious creatures and if they want, they can explore the various things that intrigue them. There's no need to go knocking on any doors and declaring that one is there to save another.

Head's up - I don't have a religion. I'm so scattered with my beliefs that if I could, I'd form something. One can call it spiritual, but honestly, it's just my own faith in the world that's around me. I don't believe in a hell or a heaven. I don't believe in purgatory, and I don't believe in "One Power." If that classifies me as a heathen, oh well. I don't need for someone to declare that I need to have light shed in my life. I'm functioning quite well as I'm sure a good many others are as well in this world.

The close-mindedness is astonishing to me as well. People actually think they're doing good when they go out and buy a book for someone to read. I'm not in danger - I'm not in dire need of another book. I'm not the least bit curious about it, I've got many friends who've actually calmly (and nicely) sat down with me and explained why they believe what they believe. It doesn't work for me, and I don't want it. Simple. I don't go around declaring that my beliefs should be followed. It's ignorance and annoying when one is constantly heard of how he or she is damned. And what the #*&@ does it mean when others can't sit down and hold a respectable conversation about their beliefs? I'm one for sitting down with various peoples and discussing how religion does and doesn't work. As of now, it just seems to be about recruitment and who can get more followers. It's disgusting when people go around with blank looks on their faces and declare that they've been touched by the light and want to reform others.

I didn't ask to be "saved." So do everyone a favor: Keep your #*&@ mouth shut and practice tolerant.


Drew Lewis
posted 10/04/07 @ 12:09 AM CST

I feel the need to apologize. Being a Christian, I can understand where the heart of this woman was in talking to you. I can even understand the "Jesus loves you" speech, seeing as how we are in the bible belt south. I am apologizing in regard to the gross infringement on your right as an American that this individual committed. I apologize because there will always be those that take religion so far and so literally as to force their own beliefs onto other people, as was done to you in this instance. Even from the Christian standpoint, talking to you at first and mentioning Jesus was all that is ever mentioned in any bible I have ever read as far as 'spreading the word.' Unfortunately, this person decided that injecting her own beliefs into your world, showing not only a basic lack of decency, but a complete lack of respect for your beliefs. Please accept my apology, as well as my thanks for having the courage to stand for what you believe in against those that would change you.

posted 10/04/07 @ 10:52 PM CST

As a Christian myself, I don't think that there is any need to apologize for the act of this woman. Every person takes their spirituality, religion, or belief in a different way than another. That's what makes us different, how we believe. Some people feel called to try and go that extra step, some don't. To the writer of the original article, you were very gracious, not many care to stop and listen. To the Christian that apologized for the lady in the story, why? What makes you feel you need to apologize? It wasn't your sin and I as a Christian don't feel compelled to apologize for someone trying to spread the word. Quite frankly, the lady from the story stood up for what she believes in. How many people really do that in our modern world?


Dear Erin,

I read your article with great interest. Like, Drew (1st comment), I would like to apologize to you; but for an entirely different reason. Drew’s response says a great deal about his so-called “Christian” faith; but more on that later. No, I do not apologize for the lady who contacted you, told you that Jesus loves you, and then gave you a Bible. I apologize because she presented her faith in such a way as to make it seem like foolishness to you. Where the lady who contacted you missed the mark is that she never bothered to tell you why you need a Savior. Unfortunately, the lady who contacted you (who apparently cares more about where you will spend eternity than Drew does) offered you the cure, without first telling you about the disease.

Erin, by reading your article I would assume you consider yourself to be a good person. Allow me to ask you a few questions to see if that’s true. Please try to answer them honestly. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything (the value doesn’t matter)? Have you ever taken God’s name in vain: meaning you used His holy name as a curse word, or used it flippantly or carelessly? Have you ever looked at another person and had a lustful thought? Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman [or man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Have you ever harbored anger, bitterness, resentment, or even hatred in your heart (kind of like the intolerance you expressed in your article toward the woman that talked to you)?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then you are just like me. You are guilty of breaking God’s Law. You have sinned against Him. By your own admission, you are not a good person. You are a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterous, murderer at heart. Yes, a murderer, too. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). And, by your own admission in your article, you are an idolater. You have fashioned a god in your imagination—one to suit yourself—one that does not exist. You have made the conscious decision to follow a wolf instead of the One, True God who gave you life.

You may be thinking right now that you don’t believe any of this. You might even be angry. Although I don’t know you and I will likely never meet you, I care too much about you to worry about you being angry with me.

Erin, it really doesn’t matter what you believe. What matters is whether or not what you believe is true. One day you will stand before Almighty God, whether you believe it or not. And He will judge you, not according to how you see yourself, but against the perfect, holy standard of His Law. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). If He finds you guilty of breaking His Law, being a good God and Judge, He will sentence you to eternity in hell. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

But there is a cure for the disease called sin. Not only is God holy, righteous, and just; but He is also loving, merciful, and kind. God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ—fully God and fully Man, without sin. He lived a perfect life and died a horrible, bloody death on the cross to take upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for violating God’s Law. The Just died for the unjust. The Sinless One died for the sinful. Three days later He rose from the dead, and forever defeated death.

Sadly, like so many others who claim to be Christians, Drew contradicts the very words of Jesus. Jesus said, “The time if fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Contrary to Drew’s words of false encouragement to you, your only hope is not to courageously stand for what you believe (namely, a wolf for a spirit guide). Your only hope is to repent (turn from your sin) and, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The promise is that if you repent and believe the gospel, when you stand before God, instead of receiving what you deserve for breaking God’s Law—eternity in hell; you will receive what you don’t deserve—God’s grace and mercy and the free gift of everlasting life. I’m not talking about religion, here. I’m talking about a relationship with the only God who can save your life.

Erin, you mention in your article that you don’t want or need to be saved—that you’re not in danger. Try applying that mindset to your physical life. If you ever find yourself drowning, will you convince yourself that you’re not in danger—that you don’t need to be saved? The next time you have need to call 9-1-1, will you instead hang-up the phone having convinced yourself that you’re not in danger—that you don’t need to be saved? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Of course you would do whatever necessary to save your physical life, because on some level you value your life. I would hope that you would care more for your soul, which is eternal, than your physical l life, which is but a vapor.

One last thing: your alleged belief in a wolf for a spirit guide actually serves to prove the authenticity of the Bible, not refute the truth it contains.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:18-23).

Erin, there is only one Mediator between God and Man, and it is not a wolf. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, your only hope is to turn from your sins and receive Him as your Lord and Savior. I share these things with you because I care about you and I do not want to see you spend eternity in hell. I hope you consider these things. You are in my prayers.

1 comment: said...

That is a great (albeit very, very long) Gospel message. Keep up the great work!