It’s been almost 30 years, so I don’t remember his name. Could’ve been John…so let’s go with that. But I do remember the conversation we had, because he told me something I never forgot. And I remember something else too (read to the end). Here’s the story:
It was circa August 1986, and my third year as an Illini Guide at the University of Illinois. Illini Guides greeted the new freshmen as they moved into the dorms and helped them and their parents carry luggage and furniture into their new home. I loved being an Illini Guide – it fit my extrovert nature, and also provided me with a way to meet freshmen, establishing trust with the hopes that the initial encounter would lead to a conversation about Jesus as the year moved along.
And I’ll never forget John. He was a pretty good-looking guy, brimming with confidence, unlike a lot of scared freshmen moving into the big University in Champaign. So he stood out from the start, but what was really different about John was the painting/artwork he had brought with him to school. It was not a poster like most of us cheap college guys brought along – this guy had class, sort of. You see, John’s painting was a nude of a beautiful woman, and this is really what made him memorable. And you know what I thought?…”I’ve got to talk to this guy.”
You know…about Jesus.
But time and tide…you make plans and you don’t quite get to them, and John was one of those plans. I intended to drop by his room and share the gospel with him, but it never quite happened in the fall, and in fact, the conversation almost didn’t happen that next semester, but it finally did.
Spring had arrived and the school year was coming to a close when I finally dropped by his room and asked him if I could talk to him about Christ. My reputation on the floor was pretty well established as the “religious guy”, so John wasn’t surprised, and he welcomed me in. And so, with the nude overlooking the conversation, I showed him the bridge diagram, my go-to method for sharing the good news (two cliffs, man on one side, God on the other, a chasm of sin and a bridge made of a cross). And when we were finished, I asked him if he wanted to become a Christian. His response was memorable:
“Well, no thanks, I’m not really interested…but, you know what, you should have shown me this at the start of the year. I would have been open to it then…but not now.”
Hmmm. Apparently “better late than never” doesn’t always work. Now, who knows if he really would have been open back then, and who knows why I never made it that first semester, but it was a lesson I never forgot. Believers should preach the gospel now, not later, and unbelievers? Well, you should never wait to become a believer, as if you’ve got all the time in the world. That’s what Paul said, at least:
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)
Now is the time to believe, not later, but now! And if now is the time to believe, now is also the time to share the good news, certainly with lewd college freshmen (who may appear more confident than they actually are), but especially with those we love. For the truth is that you just never know. You never know how they will respond, and you never know about their future. You see, I never saw John again.
I found out the next year that he had been killed in a car accident. And so it was probably at the tender age of 18 or 19 that the one-time U of I freshman…entered eternity.
For Thursday, June 4th: 2 Corinthians 7