All he did was question his dad on the way the Bible passage said ‘believe “on” God.’ It seemed odd to him, even funny enough to cause him to giggle. Why didn’t it just say “believe IN God” or “believe God” without any preposition at all. But if there had to be a preposition there, why did it have to be that strange “on” making it “believe ON God.” His missionary father couldn’t or didn’t answer him, but instead responded defensively as if the giggling question itself was somehow irrelevant, but not only irrevelant but irreverent. This is something so easy for us to do when caught off guard. There is no denying that missionary dearly loved his son. If he had only communicated irrelevance, that would probably have been less damaging. But the fact that the father also communicated that the very question was IRREVERENT, pushed his son, who was merely posing an honest question, more deeply into the ruts of a mental track that said, “I guess I just don’t get it, this Bible and its way of saying things might not be for me after all.” When all the while, it was more a matter of translation, and colloquialism, or the way a particular idea would have been conveyed in the 17th century versus the way it would more likely be conveyed today in the 21st century. In other words, it wouldn't have been difficult to answer the question to the boy's satisfaction. This was one of my two most vivid memories of that young man.
The other was playing basketball with him. He was not very athletic and we were playing two-on-two. I was hesitant to pass him the ball in a crucial situation toward the end of the game but passed it anyway, and he won the game for us! My, how we celebrated! It was a different, more exuberant celebration from what it would’ve been had I reserved that shot for myself and then made it. Of course, had I missed it there would've been no victory celebration at all, at least from our team. So there he was being instrumental in another valuable lesson for me. Years later I learned that he had been fatally injured with explosives, a deadly fascination for him and the use of which had been an apparent hobby of his. His life was cut short, but I hope he knows he had taught me much in those two experiences we shared in common.
Those lessons are still alive, still teaching in a time when young college freshmen are exiting the faith in droves, as soon as they leave the sanctuary and relative safety of their homes, churches and neighborhoods. But that is just when the visible part of the exodus begins. The hidden exodus began earlier with poorly handled questions like, “Why the ‘on’?” Or with not being picked for some activity the heart was set on, with being passed over for the more obviously gifted one. The invisible exodus begins with things like misread motives and wrongly discerned intentions, with misdirected and undeserved accusations of irreverence, where, in fact, curiosity is the main issue.
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