We had a decent sized team at the start of the night. Ryan had a wedding to attend and will join us later in the night. The mall was relatively quiet. With the Bible table setup, Andre was the first preacher of the night. He did a good job presenting the Gospel. There were a few stayed to listen to him. From memory it was fairly uneventful for the earlier part of the night.
I was the next preacher up. Again while I preached there was not a lot of reaction from the crowd. I noticed a gentleman listening sitting on a bench to the left of me; there were very little traffic in the mall. I preached for about half an hour and closed my preaching with a general call to the Gospel.
I was a fraction of a second from stepping down from the soap box, the gentleman who sat on the bench came up to me with a question. He started out being very courteous and looked as if he was genuine in his tone and attitude. His question revolved around the problem of evil – one of the most common objections we encounter on the street. The basic argument boils down to this:
A. The God of the Bible is Loving
B. The God of the Bible is All Powerful
C. Evil is incompatible with a loving God
D. An All powerful God can stop evil anytime he wants to
WE KNOW FOR SURE:
E. Evil exits in the World
F. God is incapable of stopping evil - HE is not all powerful
G. God doesn't want to stop evil - HE is not loving
The flow of the above logic, based on the REALITY of evil in this world, people have come to the conclusion that God does not exist. It appears to be a very powerful argument, and we encounter this in the street on a semi-regular basis. There are many ways to point out the flaws in the above argument; I won’t bore you with them all. My favorite route to take is to point out the inconsistency in trying to deny the existence of the Christian God, yet still utilize the Judeo-Christian standard of good and evil.
I questioned the gentleman: “How do we know what is good and what is evil without God?” The problem is that when we say it is evil for “innocent” people to die or suffer, I would agree, if someone is truly innocent and endures what appears to be needless suffering then that would be evil. Problem is, according to the Bible, no one is innocent, everyone is guilty and when we suffer the consequences of sin, either from the hand of others or through our own rebellion, we receive from the hand of our Creator, what we rightfully deserve. That’s not all the Bible has to say about evil but the Bible is very clear about evil, it is measured against a immovable standard set out by a Holy and Just God, and He deals with evil, and will deal with it ultimately, in His own time and in His own way, that is perfectly consistent with His nature.
On the other hand, when human beings attempt to call something evil, by what right do we do so apart from God’s law? In the humanistic point of view based upon the Darwinian philosophy of “survival of the fittest”, why is it evil when people die? They are not fit enough for their environment, so they have lost the “race” why would that be evil? If one group insist on that certain “bad” things happening around the world is “wrong” or “evil”, but another group think such things are perfectly good even admirable, who is to say which group is right? Do we take a vote?
I tried to answer this gentleman’s objection with the same courtesy I received initially. It was soon apparent that he did not want an answer; he just had an axe to grind. He was not happy with my answer and the exchange was becoming less friendly than how it started. Every two minutes the gentleman was changing the subject, never allow my answer to be complete. It was very frustrating but at the same time our interaction was attracting a sizable crowd. The gentleman was unhappy about the fact I was standing on the soap-box, I told him that I was preaching and this helps me attract a crowd. He was unhappy that I was “yelling”, I told him that I was preaching and this helps me attract a crowd. He was unhappy that I was not allowing a “conversation”, I told him that I am preaching so I am not about having “conversations”, besides if you could stop changing the subject every two minutes the “conversation” could go a lot further.
This gentleman was temporary distracted as I was not giving the satisfaction of dominating over the preacher, I turned and addressed a young man named Kenny. He is a young man in his late teens and so happened he is Taiwanese just like me. Kenny said that he does not like Christians because his previous experiences with youth missionaries who promised young people just like himself if they just accept Jesus into their heart then their lives will get better and all their problems will go away. Problem is that these kids did not get the abundant life they were promised and they felt that they were lied to. I tried to answer some of His objections and then take him through the Law and Gospel. I held his attention for a good ten minutes until the gentleman I was dealing with all of the sudden wanted a piece of the action again, asking completely unrelated questions and demanding that I address his question. I refused because I was half way speaking with Kenny and that annoyed him enough that he went away in a huff. When I turned to address Kenny again, trying to pick up where we left off, he angrily said to me: “I have heard people like you before, and I am really not interested.” So Kenny walked away as well.
I stepped down from the soap box, I said to myself: “I think I am done for the night.”
As providence would have it, this preacher have made absolute hash of things, Ryan showed up just in time to take over. While Ryan is getting ready, I went to my little corner to sooth my inner child. A very encouraging young man named Jared came up to me, he is a Christian who happened to pass by. He said some very kind words to me about my preaching and we had a great conversation about evangelism. While I was trying to explain why we use the Law before the Gospel, Kenny came back with his girlfriend and wanted to apologize for walking off. What happened then can only be orchestrated by our Lord. I was just speaking to Jared about using the Law in evangelism and Kenny gave me a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the use of the Law in presenting the Gospel. More importantly I was able to explain to Kenny about the true promise of the Gospel, and it is not about living our best life now, but it is about the forgiveness of our Sin. I walked through the Law with him and showed him the justice of God in punishing law-breakers. I asked him if he understand that if he dies tonight, he will face God in judgment and God would be just in sending Kenny to hell. He said yes. I then spoke about the grace of God in Jesus Christ. That God send His son to die for our sin upon the cross, taking our punishment, and if we will believe in His name, repent from our sin and trust in the work of Christ alone upon the cross then God will judge us righteous, not because of our own deeds, but His. Again Kenny said yes, and his girlfriend heard the Gospel as well. Kenny and I shook hands, I promised I will pray for him, they walked away with the Gospel message loud and clear.
Yip, my job was done.
Jared and I continued our conversation, we exchanged contact details and he left just before Ryan got up to preach. It was still very quiet in the mall so Ryan just faithfully preached the Gospel to those few who passed by. The situation quickly changed as a young man in a full business suit started heckling Ryan and accusing the God of the old testament is cruel and unjust for allow “slavery”, institute capital punishment and the command of slaughter of whole people groups. While his objections are not new, the mischaracterization of the Old Testament is again a semi-regular occurrence on the street, the angle and the way he presented his arguments was quite new. Ryan tried to answer his objections but the gentleman danced around the issue and was not allowing the preacher to answer these questions thoroughly. Furthermore he was extremely militant towards Christianity, with every argument indented to undermine the position of the preacher. The plot thickens as he revealed himself to be a Zoroastrian, a very interesting religion as it turned out. Claiming to be the oldest religion in the world, and therefore MUST be the true one, these good people believe in a good God who created the universe, there will be a judgment day that is coming and as good Zoroastrians their good deeds can out weight their bad and that is the primary reason why they see Christianity as corrupt because the Bible says that God is not impressed by our good works and that is just not fair. (Disclaimer, the above paragraph needs to be read with your “sarcasm” goggles on.”)
It is not fair that God does not let sin slide... I am yet to figure out the logic of that sentiment.
I took my chance to engage the gentleman conversation as he was leaving the preaching spot and I tried to answer his objections one on one. He was much more polite in that setting and we were able talk about some of his problem with Christianity in better detail. Turns out, shock and horror (I am not sure if I am being sarcastic here…) the gentleman used to be a “born again” Christian. He even has the proof of his previous religious fervor, the name of Christ is tattooed in artistic flair across both of his forearms. The problem appears to be that the Christianity he used to be a part of was not moral enough for him, for all the talk of being “different” Christians were not different to the world, yet Christ was taught as being “the only way”, not as a way to salvation, but as a way to better behavior management. When he encounters Zoroastrianism, viola, here was a way other than Christ that produces better morality, and better self discipline. Of course, Christianity is now proven to be a lie, because it doesn’t live up to the promise.
Tragic state of affairs indeed, I tried to show him the real Gospel, but the wall of self-righteousness was so high that even the Law of Moses was too soft and corrupted for him. He refuses to see that he is a sinner in the sight of God; in his view the Christian God is unjust to not take the good works of man into account when it comes to the final judgment. By the end of the night our conversation did not go anywhere, for one thing I am unfamiliar with Zoroastrianism, for another, I am amazed at the level of self-confidence in his own righteousness. “The Pharisees lives” is thought that enters my brain as I said good bye to my Zoroastrian friend. I have heard much smarter and wiser Christian teachers warning that the modern version of “love-me-to-death” Christianity is going to push people into either hardcore atheism, or hardcore legalism such as Islam, or what I saw tonight. Maybe it’s just my gen-x pessimism coming through, but are we seeing some of that trend in the world today? Something for me to think about anyway.
As time passes midnight, Ryan stepped down as the last preacher. It was a good night again because God is sovereign in all that He does. Despite a quiet night, the whole time the team is on the street, member of our team is having a conversation about the Gospel with someone all the time. The Gospel went out to many people and God’s name is gloried when his Gospel is faithfully preached.
Soli Deo Gloria.