The Sorrow of the Last Laugh

He said he was an atheist, we said that didn’t matter. He said that death was simply the end, we remarked that was depressing. He replied that you must simply live life and enjoy it while you can, we asked why bother if it’s meaningless anyway. He said we were over thinking everything and closed the door, we walked away, the laughter of he and his flatmate echoing faintly up the closey.

Last week was a long week. We spoke to a lot of people and there are conversations that will stay with me. But so will that non-conversation, one of many, because my door-knocking buddy and I came away moved.

When you’ve done this a few times, the rejection ceases to be personal, we weren’t really upset by his rudeness to us. It was something deeper, the prospect of their future hung heavy on our souls as they mocked.

The Last Chance

A brother I know and love recently had the chance to speak to a group of people in order to help them with their English skills. He preached the gospel of course, he can’t help himself, but that week, one of the young men who had been present was killed in an accident.

We don’t know just how close we are to out last sunrise; the sands of time are sinking fast and they could run out at any moment. It lends an urgency and a weight to our evangelism knowing this, that there is no time to lose when eternity hangs in the balance.

When that self-professed atheist slammed the door, we weren’t upset that he didn’t like us as human beings, it was heartbreaking that he was blind to the danger he was in. He did not — he could not — understand what it was that he scorned.

He had told us that we were ‘over thinking it’ but it breaks my heart to know that one day he will wish that I’d thought about it a whole lot more and that he’d thought about it at all. The day will come when he will wish that he had not been so rude in turning us away, and that we had not been so polite and let him.

We’re just the messengers. By providence, we knocked on his door, the offer of redemption and reconciliation with God in hand. By providence, he opened his door to us, an opportunity to hear the good news, to turn and live. It wasn’t chance, but he was being given a chance and he treated it with contempt.

I don’t know if it’s the last he’ll get — I hope not. I pray God will be gracious to him but our souls ache all the same because none of us know how long we have. God will not be patient forever and this man had just scorned away what might have been his last opportunity to hear, to repent, and to believe.

There were so many of these reactions that I honestly don’t know why his in particular pricked my soul. Perhaps I was over thinking it.

But let it be a reminder to us all that God wants to be in a right relationship with men but there is an end date to that opportunity. There will come a day when there is no more patience, only wrath.

This man’s response was the natural response of us all, sinful rebellion in its classically arrogant form. It was upsetting to remember a time when we were exactly the same, and to know that we of all people, weary but persistent, might have been the last gesture of mercy extended to this man in his lifetime.

The Last Laugh

Most people close their door, fume for a minute, then forget all about us. Occasionally folk have a good giggle at our apparent folly and this was one of those cases.

That was painful too, our pride was not wounded, it was their folly that stung. God is not a God to be scorned. Sure, he is long-suffering but he doesn’t allow sin to go unpunished.

As we left, the prospect of judgement hung heavy on our hearts and minds. I fear for them for the day they will have to stand before God and give an account. The Lord will not be mocked and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We as Christians will get the last laugh when the atheists find themselves on their knees before the very God they despise. I do not want that laugh, judgement is a terrifying prospect. It’s the one part of being called home that I don’t look forward to (although, I’m not exactly looking forward to the bit leading up to my demise either).

These guys will wish we’d been pushier, wish we’d thought more, wish we’d made them shut up long enough to hear the one thing that could snatch them out of eternal danger. But they laughed instead.

Our hands are clean but their folly will damn them. Brutal perhaps, but true because they will not be able to say they did not know, they were never told. God sent people right to their front door to make sure they would hear the words of life.

It was Good Friday, the day the wrath of God was poured out on his only son in order to provide salvation to rebellious sinners, and even two thousand years later, they made fun of him as he died. Judgement is a scary prospect. It’s an immanent prospect. It’s an inescapable prospect. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to be outside of Christ on that final day.

That’s why we knock on people’s doors, getting them out of bed, dragging them away from their TV, rousing them from their spliffs.

Judgement is real, it’s not a matter of if but when. Ignorance can be educated but arrogance is its own condemnation.

* * *

Our hearts hurt for this man and many like him because they know the truth at heart and they reject it. They know that God is there and they hate him, making fun of his followers too. Our hearts hurt because the thing he needs most, is the very thing he despises most. Our hearts hurt because this is the story of all mankind, not just one atheist in a tenement somewhere. It hurts to know that judgement is a reality that he cannot escape and God’s patience will not last forever, mercy was extended to this man but he clung resolutely to death.

There is hope in Christ. There is forgiveness, there is salvation, there is boundless mercy and grace for those who would repent and believe.

But God only has so much patience, and there is only so much time.

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel; ‘Seek me and live.’

6 thoughts on “The Sorrow of the Last Laugh

  1. The idea that atheists hold resentment or “scorn” toward theists is incorrect, as is the idea that atheists are going through a phase and will return to righteousness when they come to their senses.

    Atheists dont want your prayers, in fact your prayers are offensive to atheists. Atheists are forced to be surrounded by religious ideology and doctrine constantly everywhere in the world, the least you can do is give them some respect and leave them alone.

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    1. Hi! Atheism isn’t a phase, it’s a belief system and worldview, I get that, I didn’t say otherwise. Where we are, I’m afraid I have to disagree about being surrounded by religious ideology as secularism is the predominant worldview, one which is being pushed on everyone, regardless of whether they want it or not. But that’s just the way it is.

      In response to atheists not wanting prayers and finding them offensive, that is precisely why I would never offer them and would certainly never try praying for them in their presence when it clearly makes them uncomfortable. When we knock doors, regardless of what anyone on the other side believes, we simply introduce ourselves and if they say they aren’t interested we leave and don’t come back, we don’t try and push the conversation. If folk feel the need to rant at us about what we are doing, we let them finish then we apologise for disturbing them, wish them a nice day, and leave and don’t come back (as was the case with the man I was talking about in the post). This matters enough that we want people to know but if they aren’t interested (and that includes ambivalent, not just irked) we do, as you say, show respect and leave them be.

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  2. As someone who has never found compelling evidence to believe in any god(s), I have found myself speaking with theists on many occasions. (I grew up in a Christian environment, so it’s not like it is a foreign concept to me)

    As much as you believe you have learned the truth and the way… and want to spread the “good news”, Atheists and people of other religions also believe they have found the truth.

    “We as Christians will get the last laugh when the atheists find themselves on their knees before the very God they despise.”

    It’s not that I despise the concept, It’s just that no evidence has ever been presented to me to justify believing in any god.

    I get a kick out of comments such as:
    “blind to the danger he was in”, “he day will come when he will wish that he had not been so rude in turning us away”, “God will not be patient forever and this man had just scorned away his last opportunity to hear, to repent, and to believe.” , “There will come a day when there is no more patience, only wrath.”, “We as Christians will get the last laugh when the atheists “, “wish we’d made them shut up”, “eternal danger”

    So we should be “fearful” of a Christian concept of God? and anyone who does not believe should be chastised?

    That’s not a religion I would follow.

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    1. Hi, I’m glad you’ve thought the issue through. All I can say is that there cannot be a multiplicity of truths because in that case none of them could be truly true if they were false some of the time to some people.

      I’m sorry you get a kick out of those comments but there is a context to them both within this post (I state clearly that though these things are true, I’m not kicking back, scoffing popcorn and awaiting them with glee) and also in the wider context of this blog where you will find a fuller representation of what I believe. This is only one post, focusing on one small part of my worldview, prompted by one three minute non-conversation. Ironically, I don’t talk all that often about judgement and hell, as you may see from some of my other posts but about the goodness of all God sees fit to give us (see site tagline).

      We should not be fearful of the Christian ‘concept’ of God, you are right: we should fear God, it is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. People do not go to Hell because they don’t believe in Jesus, they go to Hell because they have sinned (sin is failing to do what God commands) and rebelled against God. If treason against human rulers is punishable by death, why is it such a leap to think that rebellion against God’s rule isn’t worthy of the same? It’s not actually all that unreasonable if you think about it. The unbelievable part is that we can be forgiven for such a crime.

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