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Paul H. Kogel

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Just a start - Three men, plane-wrecked on a snow covered mountain, make the best of their time - sort of.

Ambiguous Allocution

by Paul H. Kogel

 Three men, plane-wrecked on a snow covered mountain, make the best of their time.

Matt put another log on the fire.  “Don’t worry boys. I’m trusting in Jesus to lend a hand.  He loves us and He won’t let us down.”
          Kevin scoffed and shook his head.  “I can’t believe that.”
          “Why not?”
          “How can you believe that someone who lived over two thousand years ago can have any influence on your life today?”
          Ben listened with great interest as he warmed his hands over the fire.
          “I believe it,” said Matt, “because He still lives today.”
          “This person you’re talking about, Matt – listen to me carefully – he died two thousand years ago!  That’s if he ever lived at all, which isn’t a certainty as far as I’m concerned.”
          Matt nodded assuredly.  “He lived, and He still lives.”
          “That’s just your faith speaking.  It’s something you choose to accept, but I just can’t believe it.  It’s just all too strange.”
          Ben smiled.  It came from somewhere deep inside.  “Let me ask you something, Kevin.  What if I told you that Jesus told me I could fly?  You know, literally jump into the air, stretch out like Superman and fly around in the sky.  Could you believe in Jesus then?”
          “No I couldn’t,” replied Kevin, a bit of exasperation in his voice, “because I’m not stupid.  I know very well that you can’t fly.”
          “Ah, huh.  But what if I not only told you that Jesus said I could fly, but I also leapt into the air and soared around right before your very eyes?  Could you believe in Jesus then?”
          Kevin laughed.  “Yeah, Ben, if you jump into the air and start to fly, I’ll believe in your Jesus.”
          Ben chuckled along with both men.  “So what have we just proven here?”
          Matt slapped Ben on the back.  “Not that you can fly.  That’s for sure.”

          “I wish you could,” chimed Kevin, as he tossed another log on the fire and hugged himself for warmth.  “Then you could fly down this mountain and get us some help.”
          “Well, Kevin, I think what we’ve proven is that you really can believe in Jesus.  It would take someone doing the impossible, but you can believe.”  Ben accentuated the word ‘can’ with air-quotes both times.
          Kevin and Matt began to laugh, but Ben looked stone-faced into Kevin’s eyes.  “What if a man walked on water?  Would that be impossible enough for you, Kevin?”  Ben continued without waiting for a reply.  “What if He turned water into wine?  What if He caused the blind to see with just one touch or caused the lame to walk?  What if He healed the leper and cast out demons?  Would any of those things be impossible enough for you?  And what if He raised someone from the dead, or even raised from the dead himself?  Would that be impossible enough for you to believe in Jesus?”
          Matt wasn’t laughing any more but Kevin, jeered.  “Those are just stories, Ben, fairytales told to gullible people.”
          Matt shook his Head.  “There sure are a lot of people who believe them, Kevin.  I don’t think you can just discount off hand the beliefs of millions of people.  These are beliefs that have flourished though thousands of years.”
          “You’ve said it exactly, Matt, and you just made my point.  It’s what some people believe.  They don’t know; they just believe.  It’s all a matter of faith.”
          “Yes,” admitted Matt, “but I don’t think that’s what Ben was driving at.”
          “No it wasn’t.  Nobody denies that faith is the greater part of it.  But the point is, Kevin, you said you can’t believe.”  Again Ben signed the word with air-quotes.  “I showed that you could believe if someone did the impossible, and you agreed.  Well Jesus did the impossible, but admittedly you still don’t believe in Him.”
          “Now I’m confused,” Kevin scowled.  “You said you proved that I’d believe if someone did the impossible, right?”
          “Yes, and you agreed didn’t you?”
          “Yes, Ben, but just because it is said that Jesus did some things, doesn’t prove that He actually did?”
          “He’s right, Ben,” replied Matt.  “It’s a matter of faith.”
          “Of course it is.  But if it’s a matter of faith to believe that Jesus did those things, then it’s also a matter of faith to believe He didn’t.”
          “Oh come on now,” spat Kevin scornfully, “it’s not the same thing.  You’ve got to admit that it takes more faith to believe that someone did the impossible than to believe he did no such thing.”
          “Of course,” replied Matt, “if you look at it as a matter of degrees.”
          “Two things, Kevin,” Ben injected.  “First, we’re talking about God here, right?  By God’s very nature, by the very definition of the word, whether you believe in Him or not, He can do all things.  So, for those who believe in God, it takes very little faith to believe that Jesus could do those things.  So, for them – us,” Ben gestured to Matt and himself, “it’s only a matter of whether or not He did do those things, not that He could.  Secondly, it matters little, in the context of our discussion, whether Jesus really did those things or not.  You said that you can’t believe.  You used the word ‘can’t’.  That’s a very clear distinction and it is specifically the point I’m trying to make.  Both Matt and I know clearly that you don’t believe in Jesus.  You’ve made that very clear.  But I’m saying it’s not because you can’t, because you can.  It’s because you choose not to.  So, the next time you tell someone that you don’t believe, don’t say you can’t.  Tell the truth; say you don’t, or better still, say you choose not to.”
          Both Ben and Matt fell silent.  The silence was as thick as the blanket of icy cold snow they lay all around them.
          “Whatever,” sighed Kevin, as he stood and angled toward his tent.
          “I think you made him mad.”
          “Nah, He’s okay.”
          “I think the truth of what you said hit him pretty hard.  You didn’t spare the rod.”
          Ben shrugged.  “Maybe it’ll make him think.”
          “Maybe, but frankly I think you’re argument was just an exercise of semantics.”
          “You do?”
          “Yes.  I think faith is the greater point to make – not the case of can’t verses won’t.”
          Ben shook his head.  “I think you’re wrong.  Of course, it has to come down to faith in the end.  It’s true that we’re saved by faith, after all.  But you have to round all the bases before you can come home, Matt.  You know the old adage ‘words mean things’?
          “Of course, but it’s just a cliché.”
          “Well, cliché or not, it’s an important thing to consider.  I know that sometimes clichés have a habit of being overstated to the point of losing their meaning, but don’t let this one fall into that category.  In this case, Kevin was using the word can’t as a crutch.”
          “Crutch,” Matt snickered.  “Where have I heard that word before?”
          “Exactly.  Non-believers constantly say that we believers use our faith as a crutch, but the truth of the matter is they also have their crutches.”
          “Yeah, I suppose.”
          “Matt, the meaning of the word ‘can’t’ and the meaning of the word ‘won’t’ are as different as night and day.  Often people use the word ‘can’t’ to excuse them from some obligation or for justification or to avoid guilt.  ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that.’  In this case, ‘I can’t believe.’  ‘Oh, I would if I could, but I can’t.’”
          “Saying can’t sort of gets them off the hook, in other words.”
          “Yes.  I don’t think Kevin used that word consciously.  I think it’s something he’s said so often that it’s ingrained itself into his subconscious and has taken root.  It can happen to all of us if we’re not careful.  The meaning of the word has affected his thinking, caused him to hold tightly to a lie…the lie that he can’t believe.  Then that other adage, can’t-never-could, kicks in.  It’s just another cliché, but it’s true .”
          Matt agreed by nodding his head.  “I see what you mean.  You’re saying we shouldn’t allow a person’s faulty thinking to remain a part of his consideration when we’re talking about the Lord.”
          “Right.  In this case, we don’t do Kevin any good by allowing him to think that we’re saying he’s the one who has to do the impossible.  You know.  To believe in something that he thinks he can’t.  Especially, since you and I know it isn’t true .”
          “Good point.”
          “Well, we’ll just let him think things over for awhile.  Now we’d better get some sleep.  I suspect it’ll be a long day tomorrow.”

 

 

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