Editors Note: The following article was read by Gary Fisher during a lesson he presented at Eastside recently. We had a number of requests for copies of the article, and thought the easiest way to fulfill those requests would be to reproduce the article in the bulletin. GCK
You may or may not know me by name. I'm the guy who works the same shift at the plant. I'm the woman who sat at a nearby table the other day at the doughnut shop. I'm the grease-stained mechanic who periodically works on your car. I'm the old man who walks his dog past your house every morning. I'm the teenage hot-rod who cut in front of you on the freeway yesterday, and then glared back in disgust as if it was your fault. I'm the feeble old lady who lives in seclusion in her house down the street. I'm that obnoxious beer guzzler you had to sit by at last night's baseball game, whose loud mouth you endured through extra innings.
No, I'm not a Christian. I'm just your neighbor.
You might not like the way I live or the way I act. As I see it, a little dishonesty now and then is natural, even necessary. I can use profanity as well as anyone, and I don't mind proving it on occasion. I think that happiness in life depends on what you have, what you can get, or what you can accomplish. My life is centered totally around self. Isn't everybody's? Maybe God is up there, but I'm not concerned with him. If he has any concern for me, why did he take away my loved ones? I suppose religion is fine for some people, if that's what they want. But I think those fanatics who let it control their lives are fools. Life is too short, there are too many problems, there's too much pain. Why should I burden myself with something so restricting? And yet, no matter how hard I try, I don't ever seem to be able to find the happiness I'm looking for. I don't understand why.
I'm not a Christian; I'm just your neighbor.
You can see what my problem is even though I can't. My concepts of God, morality, and true happiness are distorted. I've misunderstood the purpose for my being here. I don't see sin for what it really is, a crime against my Maker and a cruel oppressor that holds me captive. And I don't realize that eternal punishment is only a heartbeat away. But you understand all this. Will you allow me to continue in my ignorance without even lifting a finger to help? Isn't there anything you can do?
Perhaps if you'd show me some kindness even when I don't deserve it. Strike up a friendly conversation, show an interest in me. And don't be afraid to mention God or morality. Yes, I'll probably think you're a little strange at first but don't you see I need help in thinking about such matters. If left up to me those things would rarely enter my mind. Show to me the joyfulness that you say accompanies one who serves God. Let me see that there really are some people who have found contentment in life. Prove to me that total dedication to Christ lifts a man's burdens instead of becoming an additional one.
But don't stop there. Invite me to come to worship with you. Ask me to come join you in a Bible study. If I say "no" at first, don't give up on me. Tell me about God's plan of salvation; teach me those noble truths that you know so well. Above all, be patient with me. Don't become easily frustrated when those passages so clear to you do not appear so to me. Slowly and gently remove the scales of denominational religion from my eyes. Help me to be what I should be. Help me so that my soul can be saved too.
You may or may not know me by name, but I'll tell you who I am. I'm one who was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell among thieves. I was stripped, I was beaten, and I was left halfdead. Some have already seen me, and yet have passed me by. I'm not a Christian. Won't you please be my neighbor?