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.’