Monday, March 16, 2009

Stripping Self Righteousness

Last Monday - March 9 - I tried to find a campus in Niterói (Rio de Janeiro) whose students were heading out for lunch so that I could preach to them. Since I am not allowed to preach on campus as a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member (Open air preaching on campus is considered too controversial to have CCC's name associated with it.), I'm trying to find ways to impact this important audience - using a tool that stirs up their consciences - without "breaking the letter of the law." In fact, I recently preached two days on the main campus of Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa without breaking the letter - nor the spirit, for that matter - of the law. How? Since I was technically "on vacation," I didn't preach on CCC's time; and because I didn't emphasize which mission agency I was with (so as not to cause problems for the Campus Crusade ministry on that campus), I see no problem with the preaching we (a Brazilian missionary pastor preached with me) did at this South African university. On the contrary, I'd estimate that 1,200 students were exposed to all or part of our message in just 4 hours on campus!  

Anyway, back to Rio (actually Niterói, which is across the bay from Rio and is where I live), I drove by a couple of the large, private universities in town, but the foot traffic was slow. Since I was in a "preaching mood," I decided to preach in front of a mall that is strategically situated between the ferry landing and the bus terminal. To my surprise, there were a number of in-coming freshmen from UFF (Fluminense Federal University - the main public university in town) begging for change from passersby. This is part of their initiation, something this former frat guy knows very well. In addition to begging, each student is dressed in a ridiculous manner (e.g., underwear becomes "outerwear"), while any exposed body parts are painted. I always refuse to give $ because I know the destiny of it - to buy beer for the upperclassmen! When I used this excuse on one guy, he denied it. He said that they were going to use the money for some noble cause. I said, "Yeah, right! And that's why you're all painted up like every other freshman who is collecting money for beer!" He didn't have a comeback to that one - liar!

Since I was, at this point, preaching, I started telling those painted freshmen who approached me for a donation that I was a Christian pastor and that helping buy beer so that students can get drunk goes totally against what I was preaching. When I used this on one girl, she said, "I'm a Christian too, and I never thought about it. You are right!" I told her to check out Campus Crusade on campus, which she said she had already decided to do after receiving her "Freshman Survival Kit" from us the previous week. So, without deliberately going after students, God providentially gave me students to preach to while preaching in front of the Bay Market Mall!

While I was preaching a guy with an ice cream cone in his hand stopped to listen. He interrupted me with a question and, since it was already almost time to leave, I answered his question and got into a conversation with him that almost lasted an hour. Alexandre told me that he had been raised in a Christian home, but had drifted away from the Lord recently. I tried to use God's Law on him - to show him his need for a Savior - but I never met such a "slippery" person! He seemed to have an answer for everything. And every time I hit too close to home for his liking, he would try to justify himself by implying I was guilty of the same things. I told him that I was only trying to show him his situation before God, but that he, like the rich, young ruler, thought he was guiltless. I decided to use Jesus' strategy, trying to prove to him that he was not putting God first in his life, but he again deflected the implications. 

He told me that he had been living with a woman and had a child with her, but she had kicked him out. I took advantage of his admission to fornication, but he came back with "But we were involved in a church, both accepted Christ and were baptized!" I asked, "What kind of church would baptize a couple living in sin?" Then I asked, "What do you mean by 'accepting Christ?'" He said "accepting Christ" meant "choosing to follow Christ and live according to His Word." Now, at face value, that may sound right. However, did you notice that there was no mention of repentance of sin - including the sin of fornication - and that this guy had turned Christianity into just another religion, which promises "salvation" based on good works?

When I started to point that out, we were interrupted by a "begging" freshman and Alexandre took the opportunity to walk off. I told him, "Please read that tract I gave you."

Oh well. What can one do? The truth hurts sometime - to the point of making the person being convicted flee. But at least Alexander went away knowing that at least one Christian wasn't snowed by his "conversion!" Hopefully - prayerfully - he will not be able to sleep until he humbles himself, repents of his sins and places his trust in the blood of Christ to save him - vs. in his own "righteousness!"

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