Last week I asked several questions about the state of faith and politics. Overall the comments from people who answered were that there was concern about how to have difficult conversations with people who didn’t seem interested in talking. How do you do that? Often it feels as though you are talking with a wall.
I’ve had many encounters with such people over the years – mostly from my years in politics, but occasionally it still happens. The short answer is – there isn’t much you can do. The very essence of conversation is that you have two people who have mutual respect for each other, who are open to listening to each other, and are open to being persuaded by one another. When someone is more like a robot in that there is no room for any change whatsoever, that isn’t much you can do. In a sense it is as if this type of person has put themselves in a prison and thrown away the key. Or maybe a better analogy is that they cover their eyes and ears with their hands and scream so that no one can get to them. It’s the idea that if I cover my eyes, then I can’t see you and so you aren’t really there. Of course, that same person isn’t willing to see reality either though.
When a person isn’t willing to see or hear the realities of things around them, then they are locked into their own perspective as if it is the only perspective that exists. And unfortunately, they lose out on seeing the fuller picture. The sad truth is that there isn’t much you can do with someone like this.
So the question is, what is a follower of Christ to do? God offers an invitation to all. Yet there are many who refuse this invitation – they want life on their own terms and without God.
And we believe that God is a God of love. So God does the loving thing and honors this. God grants this person exactly what they want – life without God. God loves us so much that God would allow us to separate ourselves from God – or rather push God away. You see, Hell isn’t a place where God torments people. Rather, Hell is a place of self-torment – a place with people who insist they can do better without God. And they suffer the consequences of that.
When Jesus sends out the disciples in twos, he tells them to wipe the dust from their feet from towns and people who reject them. And so should we. Wipe the dust from our feet, symbolically, from people who refuse to engage, to talk, to see, to hear. Wipe the dust from our feet from people who reject being open to any conversation, or consideration. They have made their choice – a choice of self-torment. That doesn’t mean we stop loving these people – we continue to do that. We continue to pray for them also. God always offers grace, forgiveness, love, peace, and mercy. And as a follower of Jesus, we are called to offer those things too. Because without God, and God’s mercy, we end up with karma – the idea that you get what you deserve. But God’s mercy is different – you get what you don’t deserve. People who are completely closed to conversation have attached themselves to the idea of karma. And the best way to handle these folks, is to let them have their karma, continue to offer grace, and to move on with life until such a time that there is an openness.