This is a 5,000 fictional piece that has been running around in my head, preventing me from getting more important things accomplished. I have been stubbornly shoving it away so I could focus on other things, but it was too prominent for me to ignore so I wrote it down and decided to post it here.
Read this with the following things in mind: All of this is fictional – and while I am sure there is some truth to it somewhere as it relates to my life, it is purely incidental – and should be treated as such: fiction. Also, this is predominately about religion, so should you not care for that sort of thing, you should probably run away very fast. Finally, this, like everything I post here, is a very rough first draft so I apologize for the parts where this rambles or gets confusing and repetitive.
It is probably best, should you decided for some unknown reason to read all 5000 words, you print this off and read it on the toilet or something.
Once there was a street – a street like many streets – with a many business in uniform brick exterior display, made different only by their labeling signs and the pictures in the windows displaying the building’s interior – none of which were the same.
One of these buildings, a local coffee shop, contained four customers, drinking the contents their individual cups. One cup, a black original Folders brew, sat in front of a man in his early thirties with exterior looks of a person born six decades too late. Another cup, a mild coffee with cream, sugar and honey, belonged to a woman who married to the man with the black original Folders coffee and whose good looks were masked by an obvious attempt to look plain. A third cup, a sweetened iced team with lemon and an extra glass of ice, set to the side of a fifty-year-old man who had a naïve smile and the physical ware of stress in his eyes, face and body. The final cup, a hazelnut coffee with an excessive amount of sugar, honey and cream that almost canceled the taste of the hazelnut coffee itself, rested in the hands of the son of the man with the iced tea.
The four spoke with ease about whimsical things, aided by the warmth and privacy of the empty coffee shop and the protection from the silent rage of the winter cold. Confidence grew within the four and whimsical conversation progressed to topics of substance.
“In all your travels,” the son asked, “where is the saddest place you have ever been?”
“Cuba, no question,” the woman said as her husband nodded with approval. “The poverty there, and the lack of freedom, it is so sad. There is no hope for that country until Castro and his brother die.”
“Castro has a blog, you know,” the son replied, provoking a surprised laughter from the woman and her husband. “It’s interesting, he is a big fan of Obama.”
“Of course he is,” the woman exclaimed. “He has to be.”
“What do you mean?” the son said.
“Read the Bible, it’s all in there,” the woman responded.
“I don’t know,” unease fell on the son. “I support Obama, I like what he’s trying to do.”
“You must be kidding,” the husband said. “Socialism is evil. All it brings is poverty and sin.”
“I agree,” said the father. “Communism.”
“Socialism, communism, they are the same thing,” said the husband. “They bring the same evil to its people.”
The son remained silent and the woman never took her eyes too far away from him.
“The Bible tells of all these things,” the woman said. “How could you support such things?”
“Well,” the son hesitated, for he knew this discussion was about to turn down a path that would put him against the majority of the table. In his foolish youthful confidence he answered, “I have issues with the Bible.”
The trial began.
“No,” the woman said with genuine surprise. “What do you mean you have issues?”
“There should be no issue,” the husband said. “The Bible is the infallible word of God. To take issue with it is to say it is in no way the word of God.”
“I would disagree with that premise,” the son said. “I believe the Bible to contain truth and life, but I do not believe every word in that book to be complete truth. Not when humans are responsible for its care.”
“You do not believe that God has preserved and protected His Word beyond the boundaries of human error, language and sin?” said the husband.
“Uh, no,” the son said, unable to sort out the different presumptions made in such a question. “I know for certain there are verses – passages even – that have been added and subtracted from the Bible. I know that the Bible itself discusses the problem in Revelations of people who have manipulated and changed writings in earlier books. And I believe that saying the Bible is infallible is to make it deified, making it an idol and not a tool for guidance towards a relationship with God.”
“The Bible must be viewed as infallible or else there is no way a person can have a relationship with God.” The woman and father nodded in agreement. “The Bible is the complete revelation of God and the basis of all understanding. To not take the Bible literally is to say God is a liar. You cannot pick and choose what is literal and what is not. To say, for example, that the world was not created in seven days is to say God is a liar and God is not a liar. Everything must be taken literally.”
“Uh,” the foolishness of the son grew, “I do not believe the world was created in seven days. Not to say God couldn’t or didn’t create the world, but even the Jews do not believe the world to be created in seven days. It is believe Genesis chapter one is a song sang by Jews during slavery as some sort of praise or something. No one knows for certain how the world was made and I don’t see why it matters.”
The husband hung his head and shook it in disapproval. A response was building in him, but his wife spoke first.
“How can you believe such things? How have you come to this conclusion? You cannot trust everyone you talk to.”
“I don’t trust anyone. It’s most, if not all, of the reason why I do not view the Bible to be infallible. Human’s know best how to screw things up and the evidence of man’s tampering with the Bible is as bold as your husband’s coffee.” The husband hid his smile, not wanting the son to think he approved of the joke. “It does not mean, again, that I don’t think there is life or truth in the Bible, or that it doesn’t have great value. The Bible says ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.’ The word of God is not this book, it is God himself – and when God speaks to you He is speaking the word, His word. And that word, the word He gives to you has no language boundaries or influence from other people or can be misinterpreted. That word is pure and infallible. That is the word I listen to.”
“But how do you know you are not listening to the anti-Christ or an evil spirit?” the woman said.
“That’s where the Bible comes in. I can use the Bible as a tool to help decipher or explain things. I can also look to nature to find confirmation or even look to stars. The Bible does say something about how you can find God’s name in the stars does it not? God is everywhere, He can speak to me through anything.”
“No He cannot,” the husband said. “God only speaks through the Bible, it is his complete revelation, there is nothing else to be said by God. The New Testament states there is no more need for visions and prophets and things of the like because we now have His word – His complete word. Anything else is of false prophets and of Satan. Satan is the master of confusion and he has confused your mind.”
“Confused my mind?” said the son.
“You have over analyzed everything,” said the wife.
“The Word of God and His message is simple, it is not complicated,” said the husband. “There is no need to analyze.”
“We are to be as children and take everything in the Bible with blind faith,” said the woman. “How can you deal with so much confusion in your life? Do you even know where you’ll go when you die?”
“I have no clue where I go when I die,” said the son. “And, really, I don’t care where I go.”
“Have can you live like that, with such uncertainty?” said the woman. “How can you live without knowing where you go when you die, without peace in your life?”
“I have great peace in my life,” the son said. “God and I are working on other things, and death is not something I am interested at the moment. I have peace in knowing God will take care of me one way or the other.”
“So where do you think you go? Do you think there is a hell?” the woman said.
“I don’t know where I go. I know my spirit is going somewhere, but I have no clue where. I don’t know if there is a heaven or hell or whatever. I think there is something, I think my spirit goes somewhere, but I don’t know where and I don’t care where at the moment. It does not matter to me.”
“I think you are lying to yourself,” said the father. “You have over-analyzed everything and are lying to yourself that you have peace. You cannot have true peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. Your soul is in turmoil and searching for truth.”
The son was too angry to respond.
“He’s right, you don’t have peace. You can only have true peace through the Word of God. Peace through believing His word and fulfilling the great commission. There is no way you can have peace.”
How could you possibly ever know the inner-workings of my soul, the son thought, but he was too angry to speak.
“What would you tell a person,” the woman began, “a person who did not believe in any god or have any thoughts about god?”
“A lost person,” the husband clarified.
“Yes, a lost person, what would you tell them?”
The son, calmer now, thought to himself for a few moments. “I would tell them I believe in God and that God wants to have a relationship with everyone.”
“And that is all you would tell them?” the woman said.
“It depends on what the person said next, but I guess it would end with me suggesting the person read the Bible and if they sought after God, he would find you.”
“That is all?” the woman said. “You would not feel the need to tell them anymore?”
“No, it is not about me, it is about them,” said the son.
“That is not what the Bible says to do,” said the husband. “Tell me, how do you know there is a God?”
“I grew up in a home that believed in God,” said the son.
“Exactly, someone had to tell you of God and Jesus and the way to salvation. Someone had to tell you that you were a sinner and your penalty is death and hell. Someone had to tell you God sent Jesus, his only son, to come and die on the cross to pay that penalty for your sins so you may have communion with God and fulfill his purpose. Faith comes through hearing, remember, and hearing by the Word of God.”
“I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I disagree that it is a requirement I tell them,” said the son. “People need to come to a conclusion on their own about their status as a sinner and recognize their need for God. There are plenty of people who ‘got saved’ because they fear hell, but have no idea about who God is or Jesus or their status as a ‘sinner’, whatever that is, but went with whatever someone told them because that was what they were supposed to do. They understand nothing.”
The husband continued. “This is the great commission, to tell all the good news of Christ. I would be embarrassed and ashamed should I have encountered someone where I did not share with them the good news. I would be embarrassed to stand before God and tell him that I did not believe that he created the world in seven days. I would be embarrassed before God to have friends and family who were destined for hell and I had not conveyed to them the gift of God. I am not ashamed in what I believe.”
The father hummed in approval.
“Do you not know what sin is?” the woman said, changing the subject.
“Let me tell you what sin is: Sin is whatever does not bring glory to God,” said the husband.
“I don’t agree with that. There is a lot of bad things or ‘sin’ that has brought glory to God,” the son said. “Didn’t God bless the woman, Rahab I think, who lied to save the two Jewish spies?”
“Let me clarify: Sin is what disconnects us from God,” said the husband. “God cannot hear a lost person because of sin.”
I wouldn’t disagree with your definition of sin, but what is it that disconnects us from God, the son thought but he did not speak it for his mind and spirit were in a rush.
“The first sin happened when Lucifer wanted to be God and take him over,” the husband continued. “Lucifer was cast from heaven. Later God created the world in seven days and in the process made Adam, and later, Eve, and Adam and Eve were perfect in the eyes of God. They were perfect until they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of Life. They ate because they were tempted by the devil who inhabited a serpent. Their sin caused God to caste them from the garden and from then on sin was passed down through male blood line. Consider my son, I did not have to teach him how to sin and disobey because he knew how to do that naturally: he received it through my bloodline. This is why Jesus was without sin because he was born of God, who is incapable of sin. It is our sin, our selfishness, that prevents us from having communion with God.”
“But could it not be that we misunderstand those actions, the selfishness you refer too, because of the way God created us?” said the son. “A teenager’s brain is incapable of thinking outside itself. It is part of the natural progression and development of the brain. A two-year-old child cannot understand right from wrong or the levels of its discernment until it is taught to him and or experienced.”
“And do you know why that is?” the husband said. “Why the brain is incapable and selfish? Sin.”
The son was unable to hide his frustration with this statement, but wise enough to not say anything else so as to let his feelings grow into something worse.
“I do not understand how someone so smart cannot understand the simple message that is in the Bible,” said the woman. “Why can you not believe this is true?”
“I do not disregard everything in the Bible,” the son said. “But I do not read the Bible with the same literal interpretation as you do. I do not understand how this is so surprising to you. Billions of people have read the Bible and have walked away with even more interpretations of it, all of it containing some level of truth. Have you not read a passage one day, walked away from it, and then come back to the same passage and gotten something completely different from it?”
“But that does not mean it wasn’t there in the first place,” the husband said.
“I don’t disagree with that, but I think is shows that things in the Bible, its truth, can have layers of meaning and purposes. That not everything the Bible has one literal meaning,” said the son.
“You are overanalyzing again,” said the father. “You are searching for a truth that does not put you at risk.”
The son could not understand this conclusion.
“Look, people say we, Christians, are judgmental and not tolerant, but it is not us, it is the Word of God,” said the husband. “This is God’s judgment, not ours. He has laid out for us what is right and wrong and what different things look like, such as peace and sin. And when someone says something against the Word of God we merely point it out.”
“I don’t understand,” said the son. “I don’t think I have said anything that goes against the Bible. I have said there is a God, which we all agree on. I have said that He wants a relationship with us, which we all agree on. And I have said that Jesus, the son of God, is the necessary mechanism for us to have a relationship with God – without Jesus a relationship is impossible. I don’t understand how this means I am incapable of peace or know truth.”
“It is because you don’t view the Word of God as infallible,” said the husband.
“I do!” said the son, his frustration palpable. “But I do not believe the Bible to be infallible. Remember that whole deal about ‘the Word is God?’”
“I think,” the father began and the son sensed his father was aiming for something personal, “you should explain to them what’s been going on in your life the past, oh, five years.”
“Curious number,” said the son.
The son and the father had been at odds with each other about many things, mostly spiritual, since the son arrived back from college. The divide was more than a misunderstanding, it was personal and real and rooted deep inside of each of them. It had come to a point where there was an unstated truce between them to not discuss these things anymore, for there was nothing else to be said.
In this setting, however, the game had changed, and changed in favor of the father. He had numbers and what he believed to be the high ground. His son was the perceived “lost” one, the one who had been confused be the devil and swayed by false prophets. Here the father knew he could take a stand and the son recognized it.
The son also knew something else: He could not stop the attack that was going to come against him, for he knew his father knew his weakness. Engrained in the son was a desire to do good, to obey, and it was something his father took advantage of a great deal in the son’s childhood. The son knew he could not shy away from his father’s command, and, in his youth, the son did his best to answer in full obedience but also in such a way as to protect himself from what he knew was to come.
“Before I left for college I believed in everything you have stated here tonight and more,” the son said. “I believed in a pure version of the Bible, on greater than some of the other English translations out there. I believed in the divisiveness of heaven and hell, good and evil, God and Satan. I believed in the second coming of Christ and the millennial reign. I believed everything and I knew everything.
“Then I went to college, a college that believed in the same things as I did with the same passion as I did, and in my first semester prospered. I was surrounded by like-minded people who blindly followed God to the ends of the earth. And then, in my second semester, I began to notice different things about the people I was surrounded by and I did not like what I saw. I saw hate – a passionate hatred of those, other Christians included, who did not see things the way they did. I saw inconsistencies in behavior between what they believed and what they practiced. I saw people who could not explain what they believed and why they believed it. At first I thought it was hypocrisy, but I realized one could not in good conscience do the opposite of something they do not fully understand or know. What I realized was these people did not have blind faith, but blind ignorance. And by the end of that semester I realized my own ignorance was no less than theirs.
“As I was reaching this conclusion I found out that my parents, the two most important people in shaping what I believed and knew, were getting a divorce because my mother was having an affair.
“As is natural, my whole system was shocked and questions filled my mind. When I went back to school the next semester I decided to disavow everything I believed and started over, beginning with the question: Is there a God, gods or nothing?
“I read everything that I had access to, sat in on different classes, went to different lectures, talked to people of different faiths and beliefs. I search as far as I considered necessary and I continue to do so some five or more years later. And through that whole process not once did God ever prevent or discourage me in my search. He was always there to be challenged and always responded in a clear and resounding way through my experiences, discussions and life in general. His voice and his message was always clear and simple to me when I chose to listen to it – which I admit I did not always do.
“Anyway, to sum this all up, I know three things to be true, all of which I stated here tonight: There is a God; God wants to have a relationship with me and everyone; And He sent Jesus to conquer the thing, the ‘sin’, that was preventing me and everyone else from having a relationship with God. These three truths are enough for me, more than I need. It has given me a peace that greatly exceeds anything I felt before I went to college. This is my foundation and how I came to it – so far at least.”
The table sat in a brief silence, each taking a sip of their drink at some point. The son, in his foolish youth, began to have a growing confidence that maybe he had finally communicated something they could all understand and agree upon.
This confidence was eviscerated when the husband began to speak. “You cannot trust man,” he began and the life seemed to fade from the son. “The message of God’s Word is simple: All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of that sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life with him in heaven. I can promise you this, God will return and he will reign again. And all those who have not chosen to accept his gift will know that he is God.”
As if on cue, the father turned to the son and began to speak. “Your mother has deceived you and has led you down a dangerous path.”
“What do you mean?” said the son. “I disagree with almost everything she believes in.”
“This may be so,” said the father. “But she has guided you towards a thinking that you can pick and choose what is true and what is not. You do not have peace, only the perception of it and that is partly because of your mother. You have over-analyzed things in coming to this conclusion. The Bible is the only answer. You live in fear. You fear failure, you fear not doing what is right. I have watched you your whole life struggle with this fear and watched you do your best to do what is good and right. When you were in high school, you were on your way to that peace. You were coming into your own and growing in the Lord. Now your confidence has been shaken because of the sin of your mother. The people around you have let you down – I have let you down. I am partially responsible for the problems in your life.” Tears began to swell in his eyes. The son tried to balance being consoling, as he believed his father’s reaction to be pure, but at the same time be protective of himself, for he did not trust all of his father’s intentions. Fighting through tears, the father continued. “If you only found someone that you could trust, someone that you could talk to, then you could continue down the road you were on in high school. You could do such great things, such great things, but you cannot come close without understand the truth God has given all of us.”
The husband began to talk, but the son was only pretending to listen. He was considering the things his father said and the truths he knew about himself. He knew what his father said, on certain levels, were true. He knew he lacked confidence in himself and he feared failure. He knew it was his nature to simplify things to such a degree that failure was not an option, that doing wrong could not happen. And he knew it was his nature to do what was right and he could always rely on that to prevent him from involving himself with people and things that could cause issue in his life. But he knew that what he feared more than anything else was life. He feared the pain it constantly brought him and the torment of not being able to enjoy anything, because joy only set himself up for a harder fall.
He knew these things to be true. But what his father – nor the husband and his wife – was that God had shown him something he could never explain, never verbalize. God showed him that He had come so that all may have life and have it to the full and God made it clear that the son would experience a full life. God made it clear He would take away his fears and heal his pain and that all the son needed to do was believe in Him to do these things, nothing else. God made it clear that nothing else matters, that there is no truth greater that the one that he has given – that He loves us unconditionally, and seeks to give us life.
And with the knowledge of what God promised him, a promise that met every test and complied with any theology, the son sat in polite silence for the rest of the evening drinking his coffee and nodding in understanding as the husband explained theology, the woman challenged his heart and his father tested his soul, and knew that nothing could disprove the truth of the son’s relationship with God.
The son was at peace.