“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52: 7 NIV).
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14,15 NIV).
Don’t kill the Messenger
“So, John, did you get a chance to do some of your homework this week?”
“No. I didn’t get it all done.” John was not in a good mood. “Why did you pile so much homework on me anyway.”
“Hey,” I said, my hands raised in protection. “You’re the one who asked for some reading material.”
“Yeah, but you told me to read the gospel of John and the book of Romans and then you added this crazy blogger called The Desert Warrior….”
“You know that’s me, right?”
At least I got a smile from him.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “Pretty good stuff, actually.”
“No, I mean it.” He paused. “Listen, I’m not mad at you. In fact, I don’t know why I ‘m in such a bad mood. All this religious stuff is starting to get to me….”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, take for example your story about Jesus being an alien.”
“Did you like that one?”
“Pretty cool, actually.” John said. “I didn’t know where you were going with all that alien stuff but it was a great way to make it all more real.”
“That was the idea,” I said. “For some people, God becomes more real if you call him an alien than if you just use religious language.”
“Well, I have to say it’s probably true for me as well. I am starting to see this whole thing as much more real.” He paused. “I mean, you have to make some adjustments, of course. God isn’t really an alien or, if he is, then he is sort of the alien of all aliens. A universe creator. Not just a klingon from another planet, if you know what I mean.”
“Exactly. But once you get that difference, you realize that Christianity is saying that this alien showed up one day and started talking to Moses, although technically he had been around since the beginning.” I was starting to enjoy the conversation. John really seemed to be getting into it.
“But there’s still a lot I don’t understand,” John said his eyes on the table in front of him nursing a hot cup of coffee. We were seated at the kitchen table in my house after the Alpha course on a Friday night because John wanted to talk more about things.
“It will come…..” I started to say.
“No,” John interrupted. “I’ve already wasted too much time. I’ve got a lot of questions and I need some answers.” He looked at me hard for a moment and then sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me….”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I was like that for three months when I was first studying all this stuff in Bible College.”
“Yeah, it was like there was this battle raging inside me. On the one hand, I was fascinated with all the answers I was getting and they were actually good answers that made sense. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to give up my independence and start to make changes in my life.” I smiled as I remembered that holy struggle with God almost every night. “I wanted it but I didn’t want it, you know?”
“Yeah, I know…..” John’s voice tailed off and I just let him stew on it a bit.
“But there’s another problem, isn’t there?” I asked quietly, then waited.
Finally John sighed.
“Yes, there is.”
“Sofi is pregnant.”
“Congratulations,” I said and I meant it. Sofi was the girl he was going to marry. It may be a bit awkward but this was 2019. Nobody cared they weren’t married yet. Except maybe God. But John wasn’t that far along yet.
“No, you don’t understand,” John said. “I’m not sure that I love her anymore.”
That shut me up. I didn’t know what to say.
“She and I have been fighting about this religious stuff for weeks,” John said quietly. “I wanted to share everything that I was learning with her and I think I scared her.”
“Yeah, she told me that she just wanted me to go to church and be a Catholic so that the priest could marry us and we could bring up our kids as Catholics.”
“Ok….” I said slowly.
“At least that’s what her parents wanted us to do. That’s why I accepted your invitation to come to the Alpha Course.”
“So I still don’t get why Sofi is scared of all this stuff….”
“She doesn’t understand what I’m going through. This isn’t about going to church. This is something deeper. This is about my relationship with God. This is real shit, you know?”
I laughed out loud. “Yes, it is,” I said, smiling. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know,” John said. “I took out all of my frustrations on her and we had the worst fight of our relationship two nights ago. I was about ready to throw the towel in but then she announces that she’s pregnant.” He looked up. “Can you believe it? In the middle of the fight she announces that we’re going to have a baby. How can I be happy about it right then and there……right while we are yelling at each other?” His face was screwed up tight like he was trying not to cry.
“What did you do?”
“I left. What else was I supposed to do? I haven’t seen her since.”
“Are you happy about the baby?”
John looked up at me fiercely. “Of course I am.”
“Then what’s the problem? Why don’t you love her anymore?”
“Well, maybe that’s too strong,” John said slowly. “The point is that this stuff is important to me and all she does is make fun of me and then gets mad at me for doing the very thing her parents told me to do in the first place. How is that fair?”
“It’s not fair,” I admitted. “But maybe Sofi just got scared that this religious stuff was really getting to you and that, you know, somehow it would change you. Make you into one of those super dedicated, door knocking, evangelical types or something.”
John looked at me suspiciously. “That’s not going to happen, is it?”
I had to laugh again. It was too good to pass up.
“Well, you never know….” But at the look on his face I decided not to keep up the ribbing. “Look, John, that isn’t the kind of change that God is interested in. You will become a better person, that’s for sure, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Sofi, right?”
“I suppose not.” John didn’t seem too certain. “But I would want to take this relationship with God seriously if I am going to do this and I’m not sure Sofi feels the same way.”
“That’s hardly her fault.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she hasn’t had the opportunity to go through the Alpha course with you or have these talks we’re having or even getting her questions answered.”
“That’s true.” John was thoughtful. “Maybe I should ask her to come as well.”
“How would she catch up? Should she be part of our table? Or should she wait for the next one?” John was working it all out on the fly.
“I wouldn’t wait,” I said. “Go home and talk to her and ask her what she wants to do. I suspect she will want to be part of the process with you. We can always talk it through here at my place as much as you two would like. In fact, my wife would probably insist on being part of our discussions. She’s been wanting to meet Sofi for a while.”
“That’s a good idea,” John said. He got up suddenly, shook my hand and turned to the door. “Sorry, but I have to go. I want to see Sofi tonight before she goes to bed.”
“Be gentle,” I advised. “Give it some time for her to come around.”
John looked at me strangely. “Could you ask God for some help on this one. I’m not sure I’m up to it on my own?”
“Of course.” I grabbed his shoulder, shut my eyes and had a conversation with God about John and Sofi while John listened. At the end, he echoed my “Amen.” and was gone.
I took a deep breath and then smiled as I let it out slowly.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, it is true that evangelism is real spiritual warfare but you give us the words to say at the time they need to be said. It is you who is working through us. We don’t need to worry. Thank you for the privilege of working with you on the most important rescue mission the world has every seen. I pray for all of those who are in the Alpha Course and everyone who is involved in the process of evangelism. You have given us the job of being your messengers and that sometimes gets us into trouble. Help us to be filled with grace and truth and to answer everyone with respect and insight. We want to learn from you, O Lord. In your name I pray. Amen.