Adventures in Conversation – Human Nature #5

Apathetic-Agnostics

My favorite conversations about Jesus have been about (1) human nature; (2) good and evil; and (3) the character of God.  They’re interrelated topics, and I think you’ll see why.

Here are abbreviated examples of real conversations I’ve had.   Be mindful that I’m really just giving a bare bones outline here.  If you find this helpful, be more personal in actual conversation.  But watch for how I keep pressing other people to have a coherent story of good and evil, a clear location for the evil, and whether they can really live in the story they’re telling me.

Apathetic Dawdler:  I actually like what you’re saying here, because I feel like there’s not a rush for me to come to Jesus!

Me:  What do you mean?

Apathetic Dawdler:  I mean that you’re not threatening me with hell.  Other Christians would try to make me feel scared that I could die on my car ride home, and then I’d be in hell because I didn’t accept Jesus right here, right now.  So you make it sound like I have a lot of time.

Me:  Well, I think there is still a real urgency to looking into Jesus now.  Do you think you can live a self-centered life, and then when you’re old and on your deathbed, you can accept Jesus?

Apathetic Dawdler:  Exactly!

Me:  But what makes you think you will become the type of person who will want to give your life to Jesus later, if all you want now is more time to yourself?

Apathetic Dawdler:  What?  Why?  Won’t it be easy?

Me:  No.  Because self-centeredness is addicting.  Your human nature has a brokenness in it.  And you’ll make it worse.  You’ll become more and more self-centered, self-flattering, self-justifying, self-indulgent, and on and on.

Apathetic Dawdler:  So what’s wrong with that?  Didn’t your ‘Saint’ Augustine say somewhere in his book Confessions, ‘Lord, make me pure, but not yet?’

Me:  He said that to show how self-deceived you can be.  If that is how you are training your human nature to respond to Jesus, when you meet him, you will probably look at all eternity stretched out in front of you and say, ‘Jesus, what’s the rush?  You’ve got lots of time in this eternity.  How about 10,000 more years of freedom for me, and then I’ll accept you?’

Apathetic Dawdler:  Say, that’s right!  I’m going to use that with him.  See, there is no rush. [smiles]

Me:  There is a rush, actually.  Not because you might die in a car crash, but because you are shaping your own human nature and your own desires to become more and more sinful.

Apathetic Dawdler:  Why is that?

Me:  Imagine that you’re an alcoholic.  And that one day you stand before Jesus and say, ‘I’d like alcohol.’  Jesus will say, ‘I don’t have alcohol here for you.  But because I love you, I am offering you a human nature that is healed of alcoholism and responsive instead to God the Father.  Do you want to receive it?’  If you’re addicted to alcohol, what will you answer?

Apathetic Dawdler:  That’s a good question.  If I’m an addict, I would probably say, ‘I don’t want what you have.  Give me what I want.’

Me:  Absolutely.  So what’s your addiction?

Apathetic Dawdler:  Huh?

Me:  I think you are already pretty addicted to your own self-centeredness.  And Jesus will say, ‘I’m not here to let you be self-centered.  Because I love you, I am offering you a human nature that is healed of self-centeredness and responsive to God the Father.  Do you want to receive it?’

Apathetic Dawdler:  Wait a minute.  You’re saying Jesus only gives us a healed human nature?   I thought he gives us a reward for just believing in him.

Me:  As if heaven is a place you can eat ice cream and not get fat?  Or a place where you’ll get whatever you want right now?

Apathetic Dawdler:  Right!

Me:  That’s not it at all.  That would make Jesus just a middleman to something else people really want, which is not him, but ice cream instead.  The problem is that we don’t desire the right things, or the right Person.  So heaven cannot be what we currently want, raised to the nth degree.  Neither is hell what we currently hate, raised to the nth degree.  Heaven and hell are not defined by us.  They are defined by Jesus.  Heaven is the state of receiving him for those of us who want him.  Hell is the state of being around him when you don’t want to be, of him denying what you want, and then chasing you when you want him to stop.

Apathetic Dawdler:  What if we don’t want what he wants?

Me:  Well, then for all eternity, he will never give up on calling you out, calling you to give up your addictions and your very self, and calling you to him.  He’ll be a stalker to you, saying, ‘Hey, I love you.  You were made for me.  Give up whatever else you want.  I am here for you.’

Apathetic Dawdler:  Yeah, that does sound stalker-ish.

Me:  Exactly.  Hell is being chased around forever by this Jesus who loves you, and can change you, but you don’t want him because you’re addicted to something else.  Then, every step he takes towards you will just push you further and further away.  Except that you can’t hide.  You can’t escape from him.

Apathetic Dawdler:  Dude, that sounds terrible.  How is that really love?

Me:  It’s love because Jesus refuses to let us live in lies.  He loves us in the truth, because he is the truth, and determines the truth about all reality.  And, it would be terrible if you believe that you are fine, and that you can define reality for yourself.

Apathetic Dawdler:  This is complicated.  So you’re saying that I actually can’t trust myself completely.

Me:  That’s right.  You can’t trust yourself completely because you’re not okay.  The longer you let your desires go on your own, the harder it might be for you to give your life to Jesus.  And one day, it might be too late.  We are all not just human beings, but human becomings.

Apathetic Dawdler:  So you think I’m headed for hell, too?

Me:  I think you are becoming someone who would experience the love of Jesus as hell, because you’re so apathetic, and Jesus wants you to be as loving as he is.

Apathetic Dawdler:  [silence]

Me:  We can all look back on our lives and see how apathy, lack of love, has hurt other people in your life.  It’s probably hurt you, too.  The question is whether you want to be in touch with the God of love.  Maybe you’d like to read a short and surprisingly fun book by C.S. Lewis about why people in hell want to stay there (it’s called The Great Divorce), and talk about it with me?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine says:

    Great Mako! Begs the question, do you think anyone “in Hell” has finally been turned around the Jesus after all that stalker-ish loving? Or is there any scriptural basis that once you die, you’re “stuck into” the state that was more or less fluid and forming (human becoming, as you mentioned) while you were alive, thus you could never go from being “in Hell” to “in Heaven”?

    Curious. Great Divorce seemed to indicate the firmer (that folks CAN go from Hell to Heaven). If so, you could expect this comeback from the Apathetic Dawdler: “Well then I’ll take my chances in Hell, since Jesus is going to chase me and not give up on me forever, so chances are I’ll accept his love eventually.”

    Cheers, Christine

    Christine Kim University of Cambridge | MPhil Development Studies Boston College | B.A. International Studies, Concentration in Economics christine.minju.kim@gmail.com | US: 617.415.8086 | UK: 07340956140

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    1. makonagasawa says:

      Thanks Christine, that’s a very important question. C.S. Lewis referred to The Great Divorce as a parable which had fictional elements. I think what he was referring to was the man who, after a long long time in hell, was able to let go of his lust-lizard, into the fiery hands of the angel, and receive God’s presence with joy and not cowardice. This quote from the character George MacDonald in the book is quite important: “I know it has a grand sound to say ye’ll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or you’ll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.” So in the end I don’t think we can turn Lewis into a universalist.

      Emotionally, the Apathetic Dawdler would have to explain why a person who hates her/his stalker could one day fall in love with the stalker. That’s pretty hard to argue for, which is why I don’t think adding more and more time into the scenario matters. In fact it makes things worse. Similarly, I think Lewis’ characters parabolically portray the meeting of Jesus face to face when he returns. On the basis of 1 Peter 3:18 – 20 and 4:6, I think there is a final opportunity offered when Jesus appears face to face. It is the decision that sums up all decisions in relation to Jesus. And that will set the course for the experience of Jesus every moment afterwards.

      Biblically, Hebrews 9:27 refers to dying once and facing the judgment in the presence of Jesus. “Judgment” in this sense is always a revealing of the person’s disposition and posture towards Jesus. Note that in Hebrews 9:28, the author refers to the sinlessness of Jesus as the symmetrical standard: Jesus has judged sin out of himself and has become God’s new humanity. Everyone else judges herself/himself when we see Jesus. Similarly, the Gospel of John presents “judgment” as self-judgment. The language of “judgment”, understood this way, gives weight to why more time in eternity won’t help. Self-judgment in that fundamental way seems to happen once, and then only deepen in its eternal significance. Revelation 14:9-11 refers to people who are “burned” in the refining “fire” of Jesus’ presence (not absence), and the duration of that experience is “forever and ever.”

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