I have the distinction of being the BAPTIST by at least six of my friends. I don't know how I attract so many Catholics into my friendship, but I do. One of my favorite Catholic/Baptist stories over the years has been when my friend now for over 40 years - Robyn, called me once to ask me who Jacob's father was. I thought she meant some kid we were in high school with or something. We were about 18 at the time. She calls me in the middle of the night, laughing, really laughing - "Who's Jacob's father, come on, I want to win!" It took me a minute to think - it was Halloween - she was at a party, and you guessed it, she needed the answer to a very very simple Bible question: Who is the father of Jacob? I told her. She won. I have no idea what I had helped her win, but it started something that hasn't stopped - all my Catholic friends call me, e-mail me, write me, asking me questions that for me seem effortless: How many tribes are there in the nation of Israel? What does the name Babel mean? Where is the actual Garden of Eden located?
For grins and giggles I'll tell you about Janice. I love this woman. She and I had worked in offices downtown that were situated next to each other. I worked for a protestant employer, she worked for a Catholic employer, her friend, and one of the parishioners of her church actually. She and Bob both would routinely come over to our office for Biblical clarification and Mr. Moler and I would often laugh about it - here were were capable at the drop of a hat to spew out tidbits of trivia that could used best during a contest I suppose. Never did it make the end of the world seem inevitable. Janice came over to my office one Christmas. She had in her hands a little box. She gave me a gift that she claimed from the bottom of her heart was something that meant the world to her - and it was a showing of her personal belief in Christ through her personal religion. I accepted the box. Inside the box was a little, old, red and white plastic rosary with a small white crucifix at the bottom. The cross itself had been gnawed on. I could see the glimpse and gleam in Janice's eyes. She had chewed on the base of the cross once or twice during a particularly tough time in her life. Tornado, bad test in Algebra, something to that effect.
Janice wanted me to give her something that meant a lot to me, it had to be something that was meaningful too. It also, in keeping with the theme of her gift - be something of religious significance to my personal walk. I thought about my offering. The next day I arrived to work with the same giddy happiness that she had displayed toward me in handing me her gift. I reached out to her and handed my good friend a rather heavy rectangular shaped box. She could tell it was warm before she opened it. When the box was opened, and the glass 9x13 Pyrex casserole dish pulled out - we both had breakfast! Cinnamon bread casserole. She didn't get it. I was laughing so loud my boss had to come over to see what I was carrying on about. "Baptists", I explain "Like to eat!" I also gave my good friend a little pink Bible with her name engraved on it. I had underlined the Roman Road - all the verses necessary to lead someone to salvation through grace. She adored the gift - we all did.
Recently I got a call from another Catholic friend. Her heart was hurting. Her soul was torn. The man she had been married to for more than 25 years had divorced her about a year before. He had just sent her a message through the mail. It said that by the time she received it he would be dead. He was going to be committing suicide. He knew her thoughts and worries about his soul and he didn't want any of that: he had cancer, he was already mad at God he explained. He just wanted her to know that she was still the beneficiary of his estate. She was to take care of herself and the kids with the money. He knew he would be OK. He doubted that she thought he would be. He told her that her beliefs in God precluded her from knowing he was actually going to be at peace. She would think he would be sent directly to Hell for his act. He instructed her in his letter to call me...the Baptist. I love that. Call the Baptist.
Well, let me tell you what I told her. The 20+ years I sold insurance told me that his claim would be paid. They had purchased the insurance well over 2 years before his act of self destruction. She was relieved to hear that - she and the kids needed to be cared for, and she knew his body would need to be prepared and buried as well. What about the Hell thing? She desperately wanted to know. He had been correct; her beliefs didn't allow for such thoughts. It was sin. Good to have a Baptist in the mix from time to time. Whether you're a Protestant, a Catholic, Islamic, or any other religion - Jesus actually does love you. The truth is, that the real truth lies within your heart - you know the answer. There is ONLY one sin that will send you to Hell - NOT accepting Jesus. Simple.
Murder is murder. But it is forgivable. So, that being said - let me say this. My friend is in Heaven. He is at peace, and because I knew him to be the OTHER Baptist in her life - I know he didn't take his life easily. It was a decision he hated, I know he was a mush braver man than I could be - I'm too damn selfish. Oh, and another thing - you guilt ridden Catholic friends of mine who refuse to let me out of the Baptist church parking lot Sunday after Sunday, as you slowly roll past me, intentionally going slow enough to wave, smile, and even make faces at me on your way out of your own parking lot - Our church development committee just approved another egress from our property! Take that! Ha! We may actually make it to the restaurants before you - of course, we'll both still have to wait on the Methodists to clear from the tables. They cut their prayers short or something!