“Your mother asked me to stop by,” the pastor said. “Is it okay?”
“There’s nobody else here now,” The man said. “I don’t mind the company.”
The pastor looked at the middle-aged man in lying in a hospital bed. It was late, but the pastor was given a little lee-way from the nurses since the man he was seeing was dying. The man recently had a massive heart attack. There would be no recovery.
“You have everything you need?” The pastor said.
“I don’t need much now,” The man said. “Was going to play golf this weekend. I don’t think that’s going to happen.” The man didn’t move except for his mouth. He was too weak. His words came out of cadence.
“Your mother wanted me to talk to you,” The pastor said.
“I always knew she would outlive me,” The man said. “She trying to get you to convert me?”
“I think she just wants to know where you are with God,” The pastor said.
“She’s worried,” The man said.
“She’s your mom,” The pastor said. “It comes with the territory.”
“She doesn’t have to worry,” The man said.
“You’re saved then? You’re alright with God?”
“No,” The man said. “God and I are far from okay.”
“That’s why your mother is worried.” The pastor said.
“I know why she’s worried,” the man said. “I said she doesn’t have too. It’s her choice.”
“That’s a little bit of a harsh stance against the people who care for you,” the pastor said. “She doesn’t want this to be the last time she sees you.”
“You’re talking about heaven and hell. She wants to make sure I’m in.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” The pastor said. “God forgives everything. He even forgives a stubborn heart against him. You will rest in heaven. That’s a promise.”
The man raise his eyebrows.
“How many theology classes do you have under your belt?” The man said. “You and I don’t see eye-to-eye on your understanding of free will.”
“You have free will,” The pastor said, “But God can see into your heart and knows what you really want. He knows what’s best for you and that’s an everlasting life with him.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” the man said.
“What doesn’t make sense?”
“Here’s the thing,” The man said. “I don’t see how this can go both ways. I don’t see how everyone can get into heaven. The whole thing wouldn’t make sense. God has promised me free will. If he automatically forgives me and lets me into heaven, then I don’t have free will. I don’t have a choice. I’m choosing to hold God to his promise.”
“You don’t believe in grace?” The pastor said.
“I didn’t say that,” The man said. “I said I was exercising my choice. I don’t want God‘s grace. God gave me free will and I‘m holding him to it. I want nothing to do with him.”
“You don’t mean that,” The pastor said.
“You mean God won’t let me ‘mean that.’ He has too. If he doesn’t, than I don’t have free will.”
“For once in my life I really don’t know what to say,” The pastor said.
“You may as well say ‘thank you’,” The man said. “For the same reason I can say no to God, you can say yes. “
The pastor got up to leave. He hesitated at the door.
“One more thing,” The pastor said. “Why should I thank you for something that is really a gift from God?”
“Well,” The man said, “If everyone did the same thing, you wouldn’t really know if free will existed. How can there be free will if all outcomes are the same? I will be your proof. My ability to say no proves you can say yes. My damnation - your salvation.”
“I just don’t understand your choice.”
“That’s the whole point,” The man said. “You don’t have to understand. It’s my choice. I find myself suddenly minding company. Go away.”
And the pastor did.