While Christmas shopping at the mall a couple of weeks back, as I was walking past one of these stands in the middle, a man stepped out and asked me this question with a thick accent, "Excuse me sir, do you have a special woman in your life?" Of course it’s a sales pitch. I held up my hand and said, "Have a nice day," and kept walking. Later I felt a little convicted. I thought, "I could at least say Merry Christmas or something." Then this past Thursday I was walking through the mall again. It happened again. The man came out and asked me, "Excuse me sir, do you have a special woman in your life?" Again, I held up my hand, mumbled something, and kept on walking. As I was walking away, I thought again, "That was sort of rude. This could be an opportunity to witness." So I thought to myself, "If he comes out again when I come back through, I’m going to say something to him about Jesus."
Sure enough when I came back through, he came out and asked me, "Excuse me sir, do you have a special woman in your life?" I responded with, "Yes and do you know who the LORD Jesus is?" He smiled very big and with his thick accent he very cordially said, "Yes I know who Jesus is." The conversation went very quickly. He identified me as a Christian. He was quick to point out that all over the world many people have different beliefs or names they go by, but it is the same God. He said, "You believe in Jesus, I believe in Moshe, but it is the same God."
Note: This should have tipped me off that he is an Israelite, but for some reason I was thinking that he was referring to some Eastern deity such as Vishnu, Kali, or something like that. So I steered the conversation in the direction of absolute truth.
Do you believe that there are things that are true about God, things that we can know for sure?
Yes, there are things that we can know about God.
So then do you believe that there are things that are false?
So there are things that we can know since God has revealed himself to us. We can know God because of what He has revealed in the Bible.
Ahhh, but which Bible is the right one?
The one that says, "Do not steal."
That’s right; it is wrong to steal.
And "Do not lie."
That’s right. It is wrong to lie.
And "Honor your father and mother."
That’s right. All these things such as "Do not steal", "Do not lie", "Do not kill", "Do not have another woman", they are all wrong and God judges those who do wrong.
At this point, I must say that I was amazed that this person who I thought believed some sort of Eastern pagan religion was conceding all these things that I know to be true as a Christian.
So you believe that God judges all who do wrong.
So if someone lies, they are under God’s judgement?
So have you ever lied?
For the first time, he hesitated significantly.
You’ve never lied?
Well, you see, all have done wrong. All do things that are wrong. There is no one who has not done wrong.
So you believe that all are under God’s judgement?
The whole world is under God’s judgement?
So how does anyone escape God’s judgement?
Anytime anyone wants to, they just ask God to forgive them, and God forgives them.
But what if someone did something terrible to, say, your mother? What is your name by the way?
Eli-Ron. And you?
We shook hands, and his smile was still big and gracious. I was being quite pleasant as well.
Eli-Ron, what if someone did something to your mother? What if someone killed your mother? Do you think that this person can just say, "God forgive me" and God will just forgive that person?
Oooohhh… That is not for me to decide.
Wouldn’t you want God to be a just and righteous judge and hold this person responsible.
At this point, Eli-Ron, and I’m probably not spelling his name right, asked me to sit down on a bench that was quite near his stand. We had a seat and he began explaining about different types of sin.
There are two types of sin. There is sin against God and sin against other people. If you sin against God, you must ask God for forgiveness and He forgives you. But if you sin against another person, you must go to that person and ask for forgiveness.
So if someone killed your mother and came to you and said, "Eli-Ron, I killed your mother. I did wrong against you. I am sorry. I am asking you to forgive me." What would you do? Would you be able to forgive this person?
Eli-Ron answered very slowly.
I… would have to be… honest… and say… that… the feelings are not there. I… would have to say… that I… cannot.
So you would not forgive this person if they came to you and asked for forgiveness.
No. I could not do it.
So this person would be condemned before God because you did not forgive them.
At this point I steered the conversation in the direction of forgiveness. I shared how we can forgive because God has forgiven us. I talked about how Jesus died on the cross, which he already knew, and how that while Jesus died on the cross that my sin was placed on Jesus.
He held up his hand to interrupt me at this point.
Why did you stop to tell me all this?
Well, you came out and asked me a question: "Do you have a special woman in your life?" And instead of walking away or being rude, I thought I would ask you a question, "Do you know who the LORD Jesus is?" Because it is Christmas, and that is what Christmas is all about. It’s all about the LORD Jesus. You told me you know who Jesus is, but there is a difference between knowing things about Jesus, and knowing Jesus. There is a difference between knowing things about God, and knowing God. Just like there is a difference between knowing a person, and knowing things about a person. I know your name is Eli-Ron. That is something about you. But I don’t know you, I only know something about you.
That’s right. If you want to know me, you would have to spend time with me and know all my past.
Right. And just like there is a difference between knowing things about a person, and knowing that person, there is a difference between knowing things about God and knowing God.
And then I emphatically added…
And I know God.
At this point, Eli-Ron laughed out loud and looked at me fairly amused.
You know God?
That’s right. I know God and God knows me.
As he shook my hand, he was still laughing. I told him to have a Merry Christmas. Later, as I was sharing this story with a Christian lady that I work with, she mentioned something about the friends of Israel having a stand in the mall. That’s when I thought that Moshe might be a Hebrew term. If I had known Eli-Ron was an Israelite who believed in Moshe (Moses), I would have quoted his own scriptures to him. But perhaps this was God’s way of speaking to him in a different way.
As I prayed for Eli-Ron that evening, I was on my knees laughing out loud myself. I said, "God, it is hilarious that I claim to know you. I am a sinful man and you are a holy God. It is completely laughable that a sinful man would claim to personally know God and not just know things about Him."
In the latest issue of Zion’s Fire, Dr. William Varner has an excellent article titled, "Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak?" with Isaiah 53 as the main subject. I hope to write a bit on it soon. When I do, you’ll understand the relationship to my above encounter.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman