[This is a transcript of a conversation I had with a young woman on a plane. My purpose in writing is not to show how spiritual or clever I am (I’m not that spiritual or clever) but the manner in which the Holy Spirit can aid us, when we are open to his leading, to naturally weave the gospel into a conversation. If you are a Catholic and reading this, please don’t take offense. I have heard that there are people in the Catholic church who truly know Jesus. I just haven’t met one yet.]
Earlier this week I flew to Auckland from Nelson for a mission’s meeting. I asked the Lord to put me next to someone who I could talk to. It turned out to be an empty seat. Well, then I guess the Lord doesn’t want me to talk to anyone, I thought. Needless to say I didn’t pray for anyone for the return flight.
I didn’t have to. He put me next to Stephanie.
“Are you heading home to Nelson or going there on business?” I enquired.
“Neither – I’m visiting my Aunty.”
“You have family in Nelson? That’s great. Is this your first visit?”
“Yes, first visit”
“You’ll love it.”
Her accent gave away the fact that she was not NZ born. It turns out she was from the Philippines, on a student Visa studying management in Auckland. That means she would most likely be Catholic and if not, certainly open to talking about religion.
“So what is the main religious belief in the Philippines – it’s Catholic isn’t it?”
“Yes, Catholic. A few Christians. Some Muslims.”
Interesting, she sees a difference between Catholic and Christian. That’s not the same in this country.
“Are you Catholic?” I asked her.
“Yes I am”
“Practicing Catholic or Catholic because of your family?”
“You go to a Catholic church in Auckland?”
“Yes, every week”
OK, so she’s the real deal.
Then I shared my testimony, about how I became a Christian after bottoming out in life in my late teens. I told her how I had a deep disdain for religion until someone got me thinking about where I was going after I died. After reading the New Testament I found out where I was going. And it wasn’t heaven. That’s why I needed Jesus. After receiving Jesus, I no longer feared death.
“Do you ever worry about dying?” I asked her
“No, not really.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Say this plane went down, right this second and you found yourself standing before God. What if God said to you, ‘OK Stephanie, why should I let you into my heaven’– what would you say?”
“I don’t know what I’d say.”
“Well what would it take for you to get into heaven?” I asked her
“I guess I would need to have confessed all my sins”
“All of them – like every single one of them?”
“Every one of them”
“What if you missed one or two?”
“That would not be good. I think I would be… in trouble”
I just looked at her. Don’t rush – let that thought sink in.
“I guess that’s pretty scary – huh” she said nervously.
“Yeah – I think that’s REALLY scary” I answered.
Another pause. I started thinking where to go next. But she spoke first.
“My sister is a Christian” she said.
Brilliant. God already has someone working her, and better still – a family member.
“Really?” I asked, “That’s interesting.”
“Yes, she keeps wanting me to go to her church”
“But you haven’t been?”
“No” she answered, shaking her head with a smile.
“You really should. It’s quite a bit different from what you’re used to – not as much ritual. But you’d enjoy it”
She hadn’t yet asked what I do and I wasn’t about to tell her. I was enjoying being a ‘nobody.’ I thought I’d take advantage of it.
“You know those Christians are always making a big deal about the bible”
“Yes” she agreed, her face suddenly lighting up. “Whenever I visit my sister, she’s always reading the bible”
“Do you know why they do that?” I asked
“No” she answered, shaking her head.
“That’s their authority. The bible is their sole authority.”
“Your authority is the Catholic church – right?” (tread carefully a voice warned me, don’t lose her too quick). She nodded her head.
“And the Pope – he is your supreme authority”
She nodded even more vigorously. It really is true.
“Well, for Christians, if the bible says it, God says it. If it doesn’t say it, God doesn’t say it.”
No answer. Long pause. Need to get it personal again.
“And I’ll tell you another reason they keep reading the bible. God speaks to them – like really speaks to them – personally.”
She looked back at me. I had her interest again.
“Do you have a bible? I asked
“Yes, I do”
“Do you ever read it?”
“No I don’t”
“They don’t really encourage that in the Catholic Church”
No, I figured they wouldn’t.
“And you know these Christians, they make a real big deal about Jesus. It’s Jesus this and Jesus that all the time. Have you noticed that?”
“Yes I have – why do they do that?”
“Because God makes a big deal about Jesus?”
Another blank look.
“In the Old Testament, people came to God through the Priesthood – you know about that don’t you?”
“Now he has done away with the Priesthood. Everyone must come through His Son Jesus”
She nodded but the penny hadn’t dropped. She’d heard this but hadn’t heard it.
“God says if you don’t come to me through My Son, you can’t come at all”
“Oh yes, I understand that” she says.
No you don’t. Another long pause. I needed to get creative. I needed a pen. I found one in my pocket.
“Can I draw you something on a piece of paper that explains all this?” I asked, pulling out a pen.
“Sure, yes” she said smiling.
I took her through the bridge to life. I showed her how man is separated from God because of sin, which he inherited from Adam. She was following me all the way. I wasn’t used to that – with the average Kiwi I have a hard time getting past Adam, let alone sin. I showed her how man tries all kinds of ways to get to God – religion, good works, giving to charity. But none of them work. Because the entrance requirement to heaven is perfection. No one can attain perfection, which means we are all hopelessly lost. That’s why God sent Jesus. He lived a perfect life and then died on the cross in our place. He is God’s provision for us. He is our sin substitute. When you believe in Jesus, he takes your sin and you get his perfect righteousness. People only get to heaven because of Jesus.
“Do you understand all this?” I asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“This is why I don’t fear death, why I know I’m going to heaven, and why I don’t need to worry about confessing every sin before I die.”
She nodded. I could see she was thinking. Something within me said to leave it at that. Don’t push. Just share.
It was rather quiet on the rest of the flight. I looked out the window and Stephanie just look straight ahead. I wondered what she was thinking. I prayed silently, asking God to work in her heart – to take the religious scales off her eyes so that she would see her need for Jesus. I also thanked God for her sister and asked Him to use her to draw Stephanie to himself.
We said our good-bye’s as we walked off the plane and wondered if I might see Stephanie one day in heaven. That would be really cool.