Vol. 39, No. 1 -- January - February 2019
CHRIST LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE DEAF
9545 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910
A Price Too High to Pay
My friend Jerry* was a devoted atheist. (*Names have been changed to protect privacy.)
In his mid-forties, Jerry had colon cancer. Surgery, chemo, and radiation failed to slow the spread of the disease.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving I got a call that Jerry was back in the hospital in a coma. The end looked near. I went to the hospital and spent the rest of the afternoon with his grieving family.
A little after 3:00, they had to leave for a couple hours. I promised to stay with Jerry until his wife could return later that evening.
I had a sense that God would honor the prayers of Jerry's loved ones by giving him one more chance to hear God's invitation in Jesus Christ. So when Jerry woke up from his coma, it was clear what God wanted me to do.
For the next 30 minutes, Jerry patiently listened as I told him about almighty God who created life and created people to have a living relationship with Him. I told him how sin is personal rebellion against God and separates us from Him eternally. I told him how God came into the world in human flesh, taking our guilt and punishment on himself, opening heaven to all who will receive this gift by faith. Then I waited for Jerry to respond.
He looked at the clock and asked, "What time is my wife getting here?" Translation: "Let's change the subject." So for the next hour we talked about other things -- his work, his family, his hobbies.
I visited Jerry every day that week. He remained polite but firm. He didn't want God.
On Thursday I planned to visit Jerry at the end of the day. But at noon I received a phone call from the hospital. Jerry's wife said, "Jerry wants to talk to you."
When she put Jerry on the phone, I asked, "What's up?"
He said, "It's.... what we have been talking about."
"Jerry," I said, "I am on my way!"
Later I learned what prompted Jerry's phone call. His wife was encouraged by my visits, so she worked up the courage to say to him, "Jerry, we need to talk to Brian about God... and heaven." Brian* was Jerry's teenage son by a prior marriage. Brian looked up to his dad, and wanted to be just like him.
And in that moment Jerry had a crisis in faith. He was fully prepared to live forever in hell to hold onto his pride, but he didn't want his son to follow him there. That was a price too high to pay. So he said, "Where's Ron?"
When I entered Jerry's hospital room, I just sat and waited. Finally, Jerry broke the silence. He said, "I haven't been the father I should have been. I haven't been the husband I should have been. From now on I am going to try to be more...." He hesitated. "...more Christian."
"Jerry," I said, "I have bad news for you. You can be no more Christian than can the Man in the Moon be more Christian. There is only One genuine Christian, and that is Jesus Christ Himself. But when He comes to live in us, He lives His life through us.
"Jerry, let me ask you this: Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive you for your years of rebellion against Him?"
He said, "No."
"Would you like to do that now?"
I said a prayer of repentance and faith for Jerry. Then I invited him to tell God what was on his mind. All he could do was weep. Then as Jerry and I read together God's promises of grace and forgiveness, his weeping changed to laughter.
Brian, who had been sitting in the room with us, was so disgusted, he got up a left.
The next day Jerry's visitors noticed his transformation to joy. Three days later, Jerry was released from the hospital and he returned home, where he constantly read the Bible. For the first time in his adult life he celebrated Christmas for real.
As the New Year rolled around, Jerry's health deteriorated rapidly. At the end of one miserable, awful, painful day I asked, "Jerry, do you still love Jesus?"
His mind cleared, his eyes burned bright, and he said in a strong voice, "With all my heart!"
A few days later Jerry had the privilege of seeing for himself that Jesus whom he trusted.
His funeral was indeed a celebration for all... for all except for Brian. He was mad at Dad. He was mad at me. And after he moved back to live with his mother, I never saw Brian again. But I carried on a little correspondence with his grandmother. Five years later, she shared with me the joyful news that God had answered Jerry's prayers for his son. Brian, too, trusted Christ.
The price for rejecting Christ is too high to pay. But Christ Himself has already paid that price for you. Have you received this gift, as Jerry and Brian did?