Nathan’s two questions had been on my desk for weeks. Other issues had been easier to research. This one made me sad. Nathan was the son of a sweet Christian family, but somehow he hadn’t understood the Gospel. Or perhaps other voices had outshouted the sweet voice of God.
I wish I could have looked Nathan in the eye and talked with him that day. I hate thinking he might miss his answer, so I’m praying that his parents will see this and read it to him.
If you and I could have talked, Nathan, I imagine it would have gone something like this:
“Nathan, are you a little worried that you won’t get to go to Heaven or maybe that Jesus doesn’t love you?”
His bewildered eyes search mine for motive, then, being unsure, he gives an almost imperceptible nod, telling me he hopes it’s okay to admit his fear.
I continue, “How do you think it would feel to be sure Jesus loves you and that you are going to heaven?”
“It would feel good, I guess,” he responds. Perhaps he hadn’t given that possibility much thought. I wonder how many others haven’t either.
“Do you feel like your parents love you, Nathan?” I ask.
“Yes, they love me,” he assures me.
“How do you know?”
“Well,” he begins, looking up thoughtfully, “My dad plays ball with me, and my mom is always hugging and kissing me.”
“Is there anything else they do for you because they love you?” I urge him to think deeper.
“They buy me clothes and stuff and give me good food to eat,” he begins. Then thoughtfully, he adds, “And they take me to the doctor if I get hurt. And they teach me how to be safe.” Now he’s a roll. “They let me have friends over and take us places for fun.”
“So you know your parents love you because of what they do for you. Am I getting that right?”
After a moment of mulling it over, he answers, “I guess that’s right.”
“Okay. Can you tell me some things Jesus has done for you?” I say, hoping he doesn’t feel put on the spot.
“He died for my sins.” Sunday school had gotten that important fact across.
“You are right! The Bible tells us that.”
But does Nathan understand what that means? What is his concept of sin and salvation? I want him to think further so, taking his green question slip, I continue, “Is there anything else Jesus has done just for you?” My pen is poised patiently for his list.
He frowns, looks down thoughtfully, shrugs his shoulders, and guesses, “He made the world and gives us food–and gave me my family.” Then his eyes light up as he remembers something, “Oh yeah! I got pneumonia one time and my mom prayed for me and I got well!”
I add “made you well” to the list on the paper. “Has anyone ever told you that Jesus wants you, Nathan, to be his friend?”
He freezes mid-wiggle in surprise. “Really? How do you know?”
“Because the Bible tells me that, too.” Grabbing my phone, I quickly find 2 Peter 3:9 and read,“The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost” (CEV).
I continue, “And you’ve heard the verse, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that anyone who believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). That verse tells me that God wants us so much that He let Jesus become a human and live right here on earth with people. Anyone who will believe that doesn’t have to go to Hell, but has a way to go to Heaven.”
“So is that how I know Jesus loves me?” He is trying to make the connection.
“Well, you know your parents love you because of what they’ve done; and you know that even when you get in trouble with them and you feel terrible, that they still love you, right?”
Nathan nods, waiting for me to continue.
“Then you can know Jesus still loves you, because of what He’s done for you, even when you feel terrible.”
He smiles then, looking at the list on the back of his question paper. Turning it back over, he remembers his other question. “So how much does it take to go to Heaven, then?”
“Whoa there, Einstein…How about we finish this conversation after a snack?”
I need time to pray. This question is too important for just winging it. Nathan’s understanding of the true nature of God’s Love is only the tip of a vitally crucial iceberg.