The termite guy came today. We sold our house (in a day!) and before it is signed over to the new owners (who are renting it back to us while our new one is built), it has to have a termite inspection. When your whole house is wooden you have to be careful, so it was gonna take some time to inspect. I’ve been a vigilant owner in the 16 years we’ve lived here. I was feeling confident.
The termite guy rocked up with “P” plates, a bag full of stuff, a ladder, and a face that looked like it had never seen a razor. He was twenty. He was four when I bought this place. Four! Where did THAT time go? He also looked like he should be at university, talked like he was at university and gave the impression that he was one of those non-tertiary educated smart guys you get. And polite! Heck, he told me that he doesn’t even like killing termites because they are living creatures. I told him if he found any to step aside and I would do the job for him.
I can’t even remember how we got on to talking about Christianity. He’s not a Christian. He’s a home-schooled, clean living boy whose family reside in the Perth hills. How is he NOT a Christian? I thought that came as a package. Anyway he starts to ask questions. Big questions. Here’s a list of them in no particular order which I was able to bat away gently (he is only 20 after all). My general responses are in brackets:
Evolution and/or God (why not both?)
Homosexuality (we ALL look for love in all the wrong places)
Hell (we end up getting exactly what we want in this life)
It’s okay if death is the end (Maybe if you’re eighty, but when your five year runs in front of a car?)
Hypocritical Christians (yep – plenty of that)
Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad/True Detective (avoid the first, love the other two)
Coveting your neighbour’s wife (C’mon – the kid’s 20 – what else do you think he thinks about when she walks out to the car on her way to the office?)
God having to prove himself by appearing to him (Are you so sure you would want that?)
Agnosticism being the lazy atheism (I told you this guy was smart)
Thou shalt not commit adultery (he said he could see himself breaking that one)
And a whole bunch more. A huge tsunami of questions, viewpoints and opinions, which I pretty much kept turning back to a Jesus question. I can’t say I was looking for an “in”, but the impression I had after half an hour of chatting was that this is the typical young person today; misplaced confidence yet no arrogance; set in their views having arrived at certain positions early in life; completely all over the issues on the surface without ever going too deep; and obediently, uncritically fallen into line with the culture on issues of sexuality, morality and God. This is the Tim Minchin crowd who dismiss the idea of God with a Facebook “groan”.
Except he had this in common with almost everyone – self-righteousness. Not in the externally arrogant sense, but in the deep, beneath the surface sense that somehow whoever, whatever God is – if he/she/it even exists – he will be okay with me. My termite dude figured that if there is a God then surely, whether he’s searched for him or not, then his good life and sincerity will be enough to get him over the line.
Here’s how THAT part of the conversation went:
Me: One time Jesus said it wasn’t what went into a person that defiled them or made them dirty, but it was what came out of them.
I gave the example of my anger/ language towards bad drivers. He was paying attention at this stage.
Me: You’re the termite guy, right?
Me: How would it work out if there were termites eating out the wood in this house, and all I did to sort it out was slap another coat of paint over the surface?
He: It’s not going to stop the termites.
Me: What would happen to the house?
He: The whole house would break down and collapse.
Me: Jesus is saying exactly that. There’s a termite in our heart gnawing away, white-anting you from within. And no amount of external paint jobs will stop the house collapsing one day. If the rot starts on the inside, then we need to stop the rot, not paint over its effects.
There was no “KaBoom!” moment, and it certainly didn’t feel like an “In your face”. In fact our conversation moved on from there. And I can’t make the guy see the truth of what I am saying. Only Jesus can do that. But it did show me that in this period of “lean fruit” for the gospel in our western cities, there is no such thing as someone completely impervious to a gospel idea, or a gospel word, or who doesn’t exhibit a gospel “tell”. Our role is simply to read the “tells” that people give off, and see how the message of Jesus might speak into those.
The termite guy left soon after. Hopefully I didn’t offend him and that he gave the house the all-clear. It’s a lot of power in the hands of one so young! His last words to me sounded more like self-assurance rather than explanation:
I’m still not going to sign up to any religion, but it was a good conversation.
I am completely happy with that. I don’t want the termite guy to sign up to religion. I want him to meet Jesus – the only one who can stop the house of his very existence collapsing one day – a collapse that will do more damage than any number of termites could ever do.