I wish that was the question and I wish the second choice was the answer. Alas no. I’m picking on Billy Graham’s advice column again:
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Why do some people refuse to have anything to do with God, no matter what happens to them?
Graham will not be answering that question to any real satisfaction, as you’ll see below, which means it’s up to me to be useful here. A tall order.
It’s because some people have come to the conclusion that the idea of a god is preposterous. Once people reach that point, the notion that any higher being should give a damn about what we’re up to becomes very easy to dismiss.
My uncle has always been kind of wild, but when he almost died last year in a motorcycle crash he just laughed it off and told me to mind my own business when I suggested God might be trying to speak to him. — D.K.T.
Once it’s been decided that a higher power doesn’t exist, it’s up to the individual to give a damn and that may or may not happen, depending on the person. Some people are born risk-takers and it won’t matter what belief system they might buy into, they’ll still be reckless at heart. If a near death experience won’t change their habits, nothing will.
So onto Billy Graham.
DEAR D.K.T.: What you say about your uncle’s brush with death is undoubtedly true: God preserved his life so he’d have another opportunity to repent and open his heart to Christ.
People don’t tend to thank a god because they got down a staircase without tripping, they just keep walking. All you have to do is land wrong while climbing down from a chair and you can break your foot in three places. That very thing happened to a co-worker of mine. People have close calls every day without realizing it.
Tragically, some people want nothing to do with God. No matter how often he shows his goodness to them, they still refuse to turn to him.
It’s refusal only if you believe a god capable of showing goodness exists that you’re currently ignoring. If you don’t believe a god exists then this line is completely useless.
Do you remember Pharaoh in the Old Testament? He cruelly oppressed the Israelites, but when God told him to free them from their slavery, he refused. Repeatedly, God sent terrible plagues on his land, and at times it seemed like he might relent and set them free. But eventually he refused; the Bible says, “He hardened his heart and would not listen” (Exodus 8:15). It led to his destruction.
I don’t know if this site has its math right about when Moses lived and who the Pharoah might have been at the time, but keep in mind that the bible is technically propaganda, told from the perspective of the Israelites and their god. Not counting the days when the Israelites had to be slaves themselves (and were pissy about it), the bible has all kinds of verses in it sanctioning the practice, in the Old Testament and in the New.
Going by the bible alone, it seems likely that the Israelites loved the idea of a vengeful god because they hated their lot in life, hated being slaves. Watching their oppressors die horribly from disease and destruction was a schadenfreude-filled joy. All that tragedy “proved” to them that their God gave a damn about their predicament and was helping them get out of it.
It’s clear that D.K.T also thinks this way, and so does Billy Graham. This in no way makes them right about that.
Does this mean there is no hope for your uncle? No, it doesn’t, because God is able to break through even the most stubborn heart, which is why prayer is so important. Pray for your uncle, that God will convict him of his sin and convince him of his need to turn to Christ.
Funny advice considering this week’s letter: Sometimes with prayer God’s answer is NO.
It’s hard, I know, for us to accept God’s “No,” or even his “Wait,” but he can be trusted to do what is right. Is he telling you “No” in this situation? I don’t know; perhaps he’s only telling you to wait. But either way, I pray you’ll seek his will about this relationship and be willing to accept it, whatever it is.
So extend that advice to D.K.T. and the uncle. Until the uncle sees a better reason to change, he won’t. It won’t matter how many times D.K.T. pushes a god in his face. The uncle won’t change anything he does unless he wants to. Same goes for those dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, obesity, and reality TV.