A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to minister to some at-risk youths. My church visited a shelter for homeless teens and runaways. Many of the teens had either suffered through tragic circumstances or had been victims of abuse. The plan was to bring them gifts and deliver a message of encouragement and hope. However, an interaction with one person in particular left me feeling like I was the one who had received a gift.
As I wandered around trying to get to know different people, I was pulled aside by one of the members in our group about one of the shelter residents, a guy named “Obie.” The group member thought I could be helpful in a discussion he was having with Obie. Obie turned out to be a remarkable young man. He couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, but he was quite profound for somebody so young. You see, Obie didn’t believe in God. However, it didn’t seem as though he was rebellious or mad at authority, he was just doubtful. As he explained his reasons, I couldn’t help feeling like I was talking to myself when I was his age. As I’ve shared previously, my journey to becoming a Christian included a stretch during and after college where I strongly flirted with the idea that there was no God. Even though I was raised going to church, the allure of the college party life was hard to resist. At the time, I found I could enjoy myself a lot better if I didn’t have those Sunday School lessons stuck in my head. That made it easy to give a lot of weight to the doubts I had about Christianity. Obie however, was different. At least on the surface, Obie had intellectual reasons for not believing in God.
Given that I study Christian apologetics, my initial thought was to take on his objections one by one. However, I realized that there was more to what was going on than just intellectual objections.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” -2 Peter 3:9
In that moment while I was listening to Obie I realized how much God loved me even when I walked away from Him. God wants to draw ALL people to Himself. God knows that some of us, who will be saved, don’t come to Him directly. The path to accepting Jesus Christ isn’t straight for everyone. Some of us have objections we need to work out or we learn best through trials and tribulations. Like a loving father, God knows how to deal with each person on that journey.
This was my principal response to Obie. I let him know that if somebody had told me all those years ago that I’d be sitting in a shelter for runaways trying to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’d have smiled politely and quickly walked away. Yet, there I sat. God was patient with me until I was ready and as I sat there I sensed that God was showing His loving patience for Obie. That Obie spent as much time as he did listening to us showed me that God was already working.
Given my nature, I obviously couldn’t leave his intellectual objections unaddressed. I probably wouldn’t have slept well that night without sharing a couple of scientifically supported evidences for God’s existence like the Kalam Cosmological argument or the argument from the Fine Tuning of the Universe. However, as is often the case, I think the love and patience of God has to be front and center any time we’re trying to share the Gospel.