by Eric Burd
People are nice…
I am sitting in Terminal 3 of The Leonard di Vinci Airport in Rome. I wish I were smarter, but in spite of being an experienced flyer I was utterly confused by the matriculation process of this airport. I used “matriculation” on purpose. Some of you may not know exactly what that means…which makes my point, exactly!
Anyway, many nice people have gone out of their way to help me successfully negotiate the realm of Rome’s Airport. I have gone to the wrong terminal, waited through the wrong lines and made a variety of other seemingly reasonable blunders. Yet, miraculously, I have missed no flights and all my baggage has arrive as planned. In self-defense, Internet reviews informed me of a fire in Terminal 3 earlier this year. Since, there has been a spate of confusing changes to their processing of passengers. This leaves me some comfort as well as having inspired me to leave plenty of time for do-overs.
But now as I sit and await the final leg today, it seems so clear that God did indeed make man in His image. Yes, there is much of Adam in humanity – but there remains much of God. And while I reject Pelagius’ assertion of man’s intrinsic goodness, natural men are capable of habitual kindness and relative goodness. With exceptions, it is largely a pleasure to interact with the wonderful human beings that co-occupy this planet with us. People seem to be the same everywhere. They generally want to be helpful, to be nice. Oh, they may be in the midst of stressful personal challenges, or just having a bad-hair day and drop the ball. But generally people everywhere try to be kind to strangers needing help. And as I contemplated this reality, a sudden sadness swept over me. I am sitting in Rome, maybe the titular capitol of Christianity. Yet, Italy, like the rest of Europe, seems so secular and nominal in their Christianity.
So, what of all of these “nice” secularists, modernists, Christians-in-name-only, and even the growing Muslim population? What happens to all these nice people? They are scurrying around, living their lives with most having no idea what awaits on the “other side.” As believers, we know that if they have not met Christ, they are going to stand defenseless before the Great Judge. They are going to perish. And what about believers? We are saved. We have been accepted as sons by the same Great Judge. Guess we were just nicer people, huh? Of course not! We may not even be nicer people, but we are made acceptable to God by the blood of Jesus.
As I was sharing my faith today with Bruno, my taxi-cab driver, I could tell that after a lifetime in Catholicism he didn’t know any more about his faith than he does about the Household of Faith (which I didn’t even tell him about). He did ask me what the basic difference between a Catholic and a Protestant was. In our brief 10-minute conversation I expressed a short version of Sola Fide with some brief outworking of the practical differences in the two streams of Christianity. Now, as I reflect on the day I hope that the conversation gave Bruno something to think about. I pray the Holy Spirit will penetrate our obvious language barrier with the Sword of Truth.
But something else comes to mind as well. Bruno was as lost and disoriented about Christianity as I was about negotiating this airport. His past experiences have ill prepared him to understand the gospel. They actually confuse him. And Bruno needed a “nice” person to “teach him the gospel more perfectly.” Of course, like all the nice people here at Leonardo di Vinci willing to help me, seeing Bruno stumbling around in spiritual darkness, I was glad to help him.
I concluded as well that if perishing men and women all around the world are willing to help lost strangers negotiate unfamiliar country, then maybe as believers we could be more proactive in helping the lost negotiate the Kingdom of God. Yes, people are nice – and as believers we ought to be the nicest of all. We ought to be especially willing to help the disoriented negotiate the most important realm in the universe.