“I’m sorry Norman, but as long as you continue to sin, you are not welcome in this church.”
Norman Walker had been attending First Church of the Baptism for over a year now. At first Pastor William “Billy” Hubbard was excited that someone in his twenties wanted to attend. Over half the current membership was over fifty and they needed to be able to reach out to the next generation. Most of the younger people who worshiped on Sundays were the children or grandchildren of the aging parishioners. They just weren’t bringing in very many young converts.
“I love her, Billy. We’re going to get married.”
“It’s not only a matter of getting married to Chrissie. You have to repent of your sin with her. In fact, you should probably either move out or have her live elsewhere until after the wedding.”
“I can’t do that to her. She’d be heartbroken.”
“I’m talking about living a transformed life Norman and so far, you aren’t doing it. For that matter, she’s not even a believer and you know what the Bible says about being unequally yoked.”
“The Bible also says that if one person in a marriage is a believer and the other person isn’t, as long as neither one objects, they don’t have to divorce.”
“Norman, that applies to a person who is already married when he converts to Christianity. You’re playing fast and loose with Scripture now.”
The young man looked over the Pastor’s shoulder casually reading the titles of the numerous books on his shelves but really scrambling for what he should say next. It was Tim Page, one of his co-workers, who suggested coming to his church and “trying it out” after nearly six-months of debating back and forth about the Bible. Mom used to take Norman to a Lutheran church when he was little (Dad never wanted to go) but by the time he got to high school he said it didn’t interest him anymore and got Dad to back him up.
He didn’t think he was missing anything until he started talking to Tim. Then his life seemed empty and shallow. Work, partying, and sex started feeling like a dead-end. There had to be more to life than just doing what made you feel good and working to pay the bills.
“Well if that’s how you feel, Billy…”
“It’s not a matter of my feelings, Norman. It’s a matter of the Word of God. If you had really accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior over your life, you wouldn’t be arguing with me right now.”
“I didn’t think I was arguing. I have a right to fall in love.”
“Love yes, but not commit sin. You don’t have a right to thumb your nose at Jesus Christ.”
Norman stood up. “Then I guess this is good-bye, Billy.” He put his hand out not knowing if the Pastor would take it or not.
Billy stood. He was a big man, maybe six-foot four and two-hundred-and-fifty pounds. He extended a catcher’s mitt-sized right hand and engulfed the twenty-six year old’s. “I’m sorry it had to come to this, Norman. Our church is open to you when you’re ready to repent.”
“Thanks, Billy.” Norman released the other man’s hand feeling like an orphaned child.
“I’ll see you to the door.”
It was a Thursday night and they were just about the only two people in the building. As Billy walked him out of the office and down the hall to the front of the church building, Norman it was like walking the proverbial “last mile.” He remembered all of those lectures about Calvinism and especially the parts about how God has already chosen everyone who gets saved and that Jesus died only for those people, not everybody.
Norman still thought that was not only unfair but unlike God. Why would He choose only a limited number of people who could ever possibly get saved and abandon the rest of the human race who lived from Genesis to Revelation to automatic and eternal torment in Hell? What if there were people like him, people who God didn’t select but who ended up in church anyway? Didn’t that matter?
Billy showed him all of the parts of the Bible that supported a Calvinist point of view and why Arminianism, the opposite perspective, wasn’t Biblically valid.
“Good night, Norman. Drive safe.” Billy held the door open for him.
“Thanks, Pastor. You too.” He looked at the older man for a moment longer and then turned and walked into the night. His car was almost the only one left in the parking lot. He could hear the doors shut and then lock behind him and Norman forced himself not to look back one more time.
It was over. Pastor Billy Hubbard kicked him out. Sure, it was based on the Bible too, but it didn’t seem particularly human. Maybe that was the problem, though. God wasn’t human and Jesus, though he lived a human life, never sinned.
Norman got in his car and sat there a moment in the silence. He imagined God’s cosmic Book of Life. Mentally, he ran a finger over the alphabetical list down the “W” column, subcategory early 21st century America.
“Walker, Nicolas…Walker, Nelson…Walker, Nico…Walker, Nigel…Walker, Neal…Walker, Nate…” He paused and then, “Walker, Norton. No Walker, Norman. I’m not on the list.”
He inserted his key into the ignition and turned, firing up the engine. The man with no hope of salvation or reconciliation with God put his car in reverse, backed out, and then shifted to “Drive.” Pulling out of the parking lot, he moved forward and away from the First Church of the Baptism and Christianity.
He’d been abandoned by God thousands or millions of years before he was born. It may be in the Bible, but why would God bother to create billions and billions of people just to have them waste seventy or eighty years eking out a pathetic existence and then the rest of eternity as human being flambé in the deepest pits of Hell?
I authored this for the Tale Weaver #158 – February 8 – Abandonment writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to take the theme of “abandonment”and either write about your personal experiences or craft a fictional tale.
I went to a church for a couple of years and the Pastor and I talked privately almost every week. He was trying to convince me to be a good Baptist but I had other ideas. In the end, we never did see eye-to-eye. He’s not like “Pastor Billy” above and I’m quite different from Norman in most respects, however Pastor staunchly believed in Calvinism and I totally rejected the entire Calvinism vs. Arminianism dichotomy in favor of a completely different viewpoint I hammered out in a four-part series nearly five years ago.
No, I don’t feel abandoned by Christianity or God. It was my choice to walk away from the Church for the last time. However, I can see someone who has bought into Calvinism experiencing a sense of abandonment if they believed their time in church was in vain. Of course, according to Calvinism, those who were not divinely elected wouldn’t even be attracted to church so that bind would never occur, but it hardly seems like a just God would create scores of people who were already abandoned and doomed to destruction.
Sorry if all this seems dry and intellectual. It’s probably only interesting to people who like to wrestle with theological problems.