This past week a well-dressed fellow carrying an ornate Ryrie Study Bible knocked on my door. When I opened it, he asked me if I was lost.
“No, sir,” I replied, “I’ve lived right here for years. I can take myself to work, get to town, and visit my kids. I can find my way to about any place I need to go, and then come back.”
“No, I meant, have you found Jesus?”
“I didn’t think he was lost either.”
A nostril flared briefly, but the smile remained. “Friend,” he continued, “obviously you need to meet my God. My Bible tells me that my God can take you to heaven or cast you into hell. He loves you so much he sacrificed his only son to save you, and if you don’t accept him as your personal savior you’re gonna split hell wide open one of these days, and it’ll likely be soon.”
“Your Bible, you say?”
“Yes, sir, praise his holy name, my Bible. Everybody’s, too.”
“Who wrote it? That guy Ryrie whose name’s on the cover?”
The smile faded for a second, and he glared briefly at me like a teacher trying to address a disrespectful schoolboy. And I admit, I did feel somewhat guilty for stringing him along a bit. Except for the fact that I knew who Charles Caldwell Ryrie was, my visitor couldn’t have suspected that I’d been in his very own shoes years before, and here I was pretending to be a complete ignoramus now. But then again, maybe an ignoramus was the very thing he needed. Perhaps old Ryrie would have benefited from a sprig of denseness once in a while too. And after all, the President might very well have asked my guest the same questions.
“My God wrote this book!” he thundered at me, holding the volume upright as if it were a weapon–or a shield. “He wrote it through special men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it’s all true without one single word of error in it! Ryrie was only a God-inspired man who had some good ideas about it!”
“Well, if that’s the case, would you read Job 2:3 to me, please?”
He frowned, but opened the book, found the verse, and complied. He read slowly too, which I’d hoped he would so he could get every nuance of meaning out of it. It was the good old King James Version, too.
“‘And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedest me against him, to… to… destroy… him… without… cause…'”
His voice trailed off, but then his eyes flashed fire. “Now wait just a minute!” he barked with all the authority he could muster, shaking the open book at me. “My Bible tells me that my God don’t do NOTHIN’ without a righteous cause! Everything he does is good, because he’s God! How dare you say otherwise?”
“I only asked you to read a verse,” I replied mildly. “Since that’s your Bible you read from, I was gonna ask you who went up to heaven and heard God say that to Satan and then wrote it down and took the paper back to earth. But you bring up another good point. God said right there in your Bible that he destroyed Job without a cause when Satan moved him to do it. His own words, nobody else’s. And if that’s true, it begs some tough questions,” I finished, rubbing my chin thoughtfully.
“Atheist! Muslin! Infidel! Scripture-quotin’ devil!” he bleated, stepping back with a terrified look and holding his book between himself and me, maybe for protection. “‘O full of all subtility and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?'”
“Acts 13:10, the King James Version again,” I said softly as he blinked his eyes at me. “You can throw verse 11 at me too if you like. And it’s ‘Muslim,’ not ‘Muslin.’ Muslin’s nothing but a type of fabric, and whatever else you may say about me, I’m not a piece of cloth. But I’m not trying to convert a single soul to my way of thinking. I consider myself lucky if I can manage just to make people think, period, and start drawing their own conclusions without being afraid NOT to believe everything some pomaded, loudmouthed fool tells them about a God they’ve been taught all their lives loves them, but is ready to send them to a lake of fire in a heartbeat if they don’t believe just exactly the correct way. So why don’t I offer you a blessing instead of taking your curse, and we call it even?”
“What do you mean?” he muttered, still scowling suspiciously.
I raised my hand in benediction, the same gesture I’d used to dismiss worship services for so many years, bowed my head, and intoned, “May the God of your choice bless you. Ay-MAY-un.”
“Uh… thank you,” he responded, turning to leave.
“You’re entirely welcome,” I answered as I closed the door.