Thursday, February 22, 2007

At the Diner

I was sitting in the diner this morning, read Hammett’s book on Baptist distinctives, having my three eggs over easy with white toast and strawberry jam, and drinking coffee.

A regular (John) came in, and the conversation somehow turned to hell. Now this regular is an interesting guy. He’s a Korean War vet, a city employee, an outgoing personality (read: talker … who I happen to like, but, man, can he talk). He must come here every morning. One interesting thing is that he knows the Bible, though he apparently never goes to church any more. He claims to believe in Christ, but as I recall from a previous conversation believes that people of all religions can go to heaven (though today he said there is only one church and all the rest are man-made … I didn’t explore that with him so I don’t know exactly what he meant by that).

Anyway, on with the story, he said “Hell is all around us.” He went on to cite the crime, violence, murders, child abuse, and the like as evidence that hell is here on earth. After some small talk about it, (when I say “small talk,” I mean mostly just listening to him go on), I quoted half of something that someone told me long ago.

For those who don’t know Christ, this world is as good as it gets. (The other half is this: For those who know Christ, this world is as bad as it gets.)

In other words, “hell on earth” is the best part of life for the unbeliever. People who claim that life on earth is bad are certainly right. When they claim it is “hell,” they reveal a great misunderstanding of the eternal price of sin. I am just silly enough to believe that hell actually exists, that it is a place of eternal torment for those who love their sin and reject Christ, and that whatever happens on this earth cannot hold a candle to the real place.

As a part of this conversation, John told of taking his father to preach in an Old Regular Baptist Church in West Virginia. He said just as his father got to preaching on sin and judgment, the moderator would signal the other men in the back (“who were smoking and spitting tobacco juice out the window”) to start singing and drown him out because “they didn’t want to hear the Bible about sin and judgment.” It was a pretty funny story, especially when John broke into Amazing Grace in a fashion you could close your eyes and imagine the old church building full of people from the mountains of West Virginia.

John then decided to quote his father again, to the effect that you shouldn’t talk about religion and politics. The irony is that politics is one of John’s favorite hobby-horses in the diner, and religion comes up from time to time as well.

I spoke up to say I love talking about both, but I actually only talk about one: religion. That’s the most important thing.

That’s my love. I will talk religion all day long with someone who is interested. I stay out of politics because I don’t want the church to be tied up in that trivial stuff at the expense of the gospel. I don’t want the message of Jesus tied to my political views, and I certainly don’t want to risk a hearing for the gospel in order to spout my political views. Of course, at times I have to bite my tongue.

So why do I say all this? I guess it just reminds me to always be ready to make a defense for the hope that lies within. Most of these people are ones I have talked to before about Christ, to some degree or other. Some of them have visited our church. Where there is a chance to speak up for the truth of Christ, let not my voice be found wanting, even if only to plant a seed.


JP Hansen said...

I'm pretty sure now I like your diner posts best.

I will pray for John's salvation. It sounds like John 16.8-11 is going on.

Keep holding forth the word of life, bro.

Patrick Berryman said...

I agree with JP. I look forward to hearing what's happening at the diner.