“Atheists don’t know nothing,” Joshua hissed walking into the room. “Self-righteous bastards!”
I stood up and walked to the window overlooking the beautiful flower gardens. “If you continue like this, you’re going to be worse than them.”
Joshua slumped down in a chair and assumed a hunched posture, the posture of a defeated man. “I keep losing in every single debate we engage in.”
I looked over my shoulder quizically. His confession suprised me. Joshua was the toughest Evangelist I had ever met.
He shrugged. “I give them all the facts I know but they just walk away. To me, that’s a terrible failure on my part.”
“They’ve done that all the time and you’ve never called them bastards. They’re not bastards. They’re just a bunch of misguided souls in dire need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.”
Joshua sighed. “Maybe. Maybe not. You must see the latest development. They not only refuse to see the truth but they’ve also taken to misinterpreting the Scriptures. The centre of focus has shifted from Paul’s letters– the areas in which he advocates for slavery and refers to men as dogs, and oh, the one condemning homosexuality too– to the book of Leviticus.”
I now understood Joshua’s desperation. It was difficult, almost impossible, to help an atheist see a point in most books of the Old Testament. I had heard one criticizing Elisha for commanding fire from heaven to consume ‘innocent’ men.
“Why not tell them what Jesus said concerning the laws on marriage and divorce?”
Joshua looked skeptical. “That’s like telling them that God changes. The Scriptures states categorically that He doesn’t.”
“Brother, God does not change but He changes His approach to salvation. That’s why we no longer have to slaughter sheep to atone for our sins.”
Joshua thought for a moment. He nodded. “The answer adducing to what Jesus said concerning marriage and divorce is good but not good enough. You can’t just say: ‘Moses wrote those laws to the Israelites because they were difficult to teach’ and expect to be let off the hook. If the Israelites were difficult to teach, I think atheists are worse.”
I smiled. Joshua was a seasoned self-educated theologian. He was not going to leave any stone unturned. “Take them through the law. Tell them it didn’t condemn people unheard. Tell them there had to be evidence and at least two witnesses, and the case had to be taken to the judges, and later, after Samuel, the kings. It’s not very different from what happens today in the courts.”
Joshua shook his head from side to side. “You don’t understant. It’s not the judicial procedure. They claim that the law is very inflexible…and brutal.”
“I know. Every law looks like that on paper. But the discretion of deciding whether one is guilty is the Judge’s. After that, the Judge alone decides the penalty depending on what the accused will say in mitigation.”
He openned his mouth to speak but I held up my hand to silence him.
“I’ll give you an example,” I continued. “According to Israel’s laws, anyone who curses the king was supposed to be put to death. Shimei cursed King David but King David didn’t put him to death.”
“They’ll call that impunity,” Joshua said thoughtfully.
I seized the opportunity to drive the point home. “In which case they have no business complaining about the inflexibility and brutality of the law.”
Joshua considered what I had told him quietly. He bothered very much about atheist and he always reminded everyone that, though they had refused to accept the only way to the Father, and the Father too, these peole needed the Gospel. They needed another chance and a little more love. They needed to be understood. He had taken the initiative of preaching the Gospel to them. A few had seen the light but most had turned and denied Jesus before men.
“Joshua,” I called, “you can preach to these people but only God can change them. So don’t let a little failure here and there go to your heart. Okay?”
Joshua nodded. He was feeling much better now. “Don’t worry about me, Brother. I’ll be alright.”