You see, I have never been slack myself about engaing with atheists. But whether it is responding to the infinitely silly question from one blogger: "Okay, Creationists, why didn't God give us the ability to travel in space?" (Yup, actual question asked); or trying to get past the notion that a "real" God should think and reason as we do, it is hard to get an atheist to really listen. Many consider that they "already know it all", claiming "I've been brought up in a church/I've read the Bible, along with the Quran, etc." and refusing to believe that there is more to it than that. Because you cannot get them to understand that God wants more than that, He wants a personal relationship. That's when they go into "Easter Bunny mode" generally. And even if you are willing to play the "what if" game with their beliefs, they will not extend you the same courtesy; any reasoning you use, they will dismiss without even hearing, "but if God exists", and tell you they won't continue the conversation because you are deluded.
And yet I try, not trying to make a point, but because God cares about them- and so should I. I don't know how many times I have said, "I do this because I care about you," only to be met with the attitude, "I don't need your caring because God doesn't exist. If I gave them a gift they didn't need at a birthday party, a reasonable person would say, "That's okay, thanks for the thought." Because they would accept the caring that went into it, whether it was the right gift or not. Care about an atheist this way, and because God is in the equation, you get, "You've done nothing for me." But they are the free thinkers.
And I bring this up not to attack them, but to explain my state of mind during these set-tos. I don't get pissed for myself (though I do get mad for God's sake at blasphemy), or get a case of hurt pride. But I get frustrated, and depressed. Because Satan has chosen to erect a wall of "I can't hear you" in these people, and they will not listen, even when you use the same rules of logic they profess to follow. It hurts. And I am confessing right here that, in times when you are constantly barraged with groups putting up anti-God billboards, when our President tells us Muslims kill Americans because Christians are evil, when it seems half our population lives to kill and rob and rape before they can be killed or robbed or be raped, it just doesn't seem worth it to care about these people anymore. And you begin to pray that God finally gives up on them and brings His judgement this day, this hour. "Look at them, God, you can't save them if they won't hear. Isn't it time to just bag it all?"
I'll admit to that prayer at least once a month. But when I put together my golden, logical case for ending it all, what God hears is, "God, you are being foolish. You love these people but they will never love you. Why waste your time?" Which is me making three mistakes.
First, God is never foolish. And He's certainly not foolish because He " is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness". He waited 2,000 years on my undeserving ass. Was that so foolish?
Second, I am judging others as irredeemable. If God wants to send out both combines to get the masses and gleaners afterwards to get the bits and pieces, who am I to judge how He tills his farm? It's not like I'm the choicest ear off the stalk.
Third, it's not a waste of time if one person gets to avoid eternal damnation. Ask the person who doesn't avoid it.
Lately, I have prayed keeping in mind the story of the widow and the corrupt judge from Luke 18. For those who don't remember, it goes like this:
"1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Another way the bold verse is put is "Avenge me against my Adversary", and that is the prayer I have been praying for myself and others. Because the Adversary is Satan, and this prayer, to me, is the same as the line from the Catholic Prayer to St. Michael, "...defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil." When I pray for the judgement day, I have to make sure it is because I am asking God's will be done, and not because I have mistaken the people around me for the Adversary. Better then to pray, "Avenge them, Lord, against THEIR adversary." I don't have to heap hot coals on their heads. I just desire for them to hear.