87 and Dead

After having dinner at Steve’s I went out to his car to get a box of Bibles to take to the church (six doors down) on my way to work (for the evening). I just happened to run into my old friend,who I had met two summers ago during my first internship at GFC, while she was walking her beautiful golden Labrador. She is a kind elderly Hungarian lady who has been deeply influence by the word-faith movement (“health and wealth Gospel”). She rejected the true Gospel two summers ago. We had many talks when she would kindly invite me in for tea. I have randomly crossed her path a few times since. She visited GFC a few times two summers ago. I was delighted to see her again and I informed her of my work at the church this summer, so she told me I would see her around (for she walks her dog often).

Thereafter, right when that conversation ended I saw my old neighbour (an elderly Italian man). He a friendly man who enjoys talking about his life – the things he has done, the places he has been, and now, his thoughts in retrospect. Now, some people believe that you have to earn your right to speak (about Christ). I think there is something to be said for this philosophy; however, I believe this approach is often (not always) adopted because of sin (i.e., fear of man, love of self, worldliness, etc.) OR simply a spiritual dullness to the urgent need to spread the Gospel and a lack of faith in the power of the Gospel message itself to save (Romans 1:16).

Well, as I stood listening to this man (and listening-for-a-while I did), I thought to myself, “I have earned my right to speak to this man.” Let me explain the context of this particular situation. I used to live in the church neighbour. My roomate Steve and I would sometimes shovel his driveway in the winter (when we could). We would always have friendly chats with him when he was out. I have learned much about this man, who truly has done many things in his long life. But, I had never confronted him about his sin and the coming judgement; nor had I told him the Gospel.

We talked for while (him much more than me). At one point he mentioned that he was 87 years old. I told him that his days are numbered and asked him if he is prepared to die. He did not answer me, but went on to talk about his life in Italy. Again a little later, when the topic was ripe, I reminded him that he is 87 and asked him if he is prepared for the judgment. Again he responded by talking about other things without answering my question. A while later he mentioned how he went on a trip to Israel once. I told him that I would love to see Israel, for I love Jesus and the Bible. I explained how neat it would be to see the places I read about.

He responded by telling me that he is Catholic. I said, “You are Catholic?” I went on to ask him whether God would accept him or reject him. He did not directly answer me but he did not seemed too concerned. He explained that he was born Catholic so he was going to stay Catholic. He was quite confident that his has no need to be concerned about the judgment. He reasoned that he had lived a good life and helped people. He spoke of orphanages that he helped. He told me of the religious family he grew up in. He reassured me not to be concerned. He told me “don’t worry about it, it’s ok, everything is good.” He also mentioned, “we will see what happens when we get there, we cannot know now.”

I asked him, “have  you ever lied?” He seemed stunned by the question, “What?” I asked him, “have you ever lied?” Apparently he had not. I ask him if he had ever stole. He spoke about his religious upbringing. At one point I asked him, “have you ever sinned? Have you ever done anything bad? Have you ever had to confess to a priest?” He was silent, but responded by shaking his head no. Then I asked him if he had ever committed adultery. At this point he went on to tell me of many television programs that he has access to. I think he meant that he can learn about religion from Catholic sources on television, and that I do not need to worry about informing him of religious things.

He keep reassuring me, “Don’t worry, it’s ok.” Throughout our talk he often said, “Come and go.” He used this phrase to speak of how life is to be lived – you just come and go, do this and that, be busy, help people, do good, don’t worry about thinking of serious things like death and the afterlife, just “come and go.” He is 87 and dead in his sins.

My heart felt dull today. My heart does not sink with love and sadness for him, but I know it should. May the Lord help us to love the lost; and may He help us to know how to best minister to those who are 87 and dead. Lord, help us to believe that you will save even those who 87 and dead.

5 responses to “87 and Dead

  1. I don’t get it!
    What make you think he’s “lost?”

    • One reason why I think he is lost is because he was denying that he had ever sinned. John writes that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful story, Paul! Your articles are both a rebuke and an encouragement to me, and that is a beautiful combination!

    May God continue to grant you words with which to open your mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Eph 6:19)!


  3. Thanks for this fine article…and may I join you in prayer in asking our Lord for “love for the lost” and the unlovely.

  4. Hi Paul, good to see you still have a passion for the lost. I remember your gentle but bold and direct style.

    It’s always discouraging to talk to people like this, I have spoken to many like this, who come up with polite (or not so polite) excuses and rabbit trails to avoid the consequences of sin.

    But take heart, you’re doing the work of the G.C. and as you said, the gospel will do its own work through the word preached.

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