But the voice grew more persistent, “I need to talk to the missionary right NOW! Send him out to speak with me!”
Pastor Togba responded, “Who it is at the door?”
The voice responded instantly with, “It is Paul Zawolo, and want to speak with the Missionary Pastor from England! He knows me. We spoke yesterday at the Pastors’ meeting.”
Not being put off his mission to speak with me, I agreed to go out and speak with him despite the recommendation of Pastor Togba and Dr. Trexler that I wait til the morning. Standing up from the table, I turned the outside light on. I knew it would not make a great deal of difference considering it was a yellow bulb and secondly because the house lights were running off of generator power.
There is no electricity anywhere in Liberia unless a person has a personal generator they can afford to own and to run. It was even a little disconcerting to go and visit high-ranking government officials in their offices only to realize that they have no more amenities that the rest of the country. Phone service is also non-existent unless you have a cell phone. It is not possible to contact any government official unless you call them on a cell phone.
Thankfully, the generator was running that night otherwise I might have been more concerned than I was about stepping outside the house. I had no desire to speak with anybody when I have to shine a flashlight in their face to be able to see them.
Pastor Togba also stood up and unbolting the door allowed me to step outside the home. As soon as I went out onto the porch, I heard the bolt being secured on the door again. Now, I was very concerned! I was locked out of the safety of the house and standing on the porch who I had spoken with on two different occasions. Both times, he had not been very happy with me and what I had to say, so I could only imagine what he must thinking to make the trip to Pastor Togba’s home at night.
Paul looked me in the dim light after the door had been locked shut again and his next words were, “I am a good person, and I did not like what you had to say at the meeting yesterday!” What an opening line – certainly an attention grabber! I had a pretty good feeling that what he didn’t like had nothing to do with my brief section on the creation of the world.
Praying for wisdom, my conversation with Paul moved along these lines for the next 40 minutes.
Me: “Paul, what was it you didn’t like?”
Paul: “I am a good person and you said at the meeting that I was not a good person! I am a pastor and I believe in God, and I do a lot of good things for God and others. Therefore, I am going to heaven.”
Me: “But Paul, even the demons believe in God and they tremble. That does not mean they are saved because they cannot be redeemed. If you believe you are right with God, then why are you coming here to Pastor Togba’s house to speak with me at night? The truth is that I never said you were not a good person, I simply stated what the Word of God has to say about each of us. We have wicked hearts before God and are deserving of judgment.”
Paul: “Well, I am definitely going to heaven because I am a good person!”
Me: “Paul, what is that makes you think you are good and not deserving of the wrath of God?
Paul thought for a moment and said, “Because I keep the Ten Commandments. All of them, and that makes me a good person!”
I did not want to say it, but he was starting to sound like a broken record. All he could focus on was the very best that he could accomplish, but failed to realize that his own righteousness was as filthy rags in the eyes of the Holy God of heaven. It is tragic that there are so many in the world who are just like Paul Zawolo. They perform good deeds and think that by keeping the Ten Commandments that they will gain entrance into heaven.
Deciding on a different approach, I said, “Paul, why don’t I have you take a little test to see if you are truly a good person in the sight of God? First, have you ever told a lie?”
Me: “Not even a little black lie?” (In Liberia, they don’t call them little white lies, but little black ones.)
Paul: “Ok, maybe a little black lie, but only a couple of times.”
Me: “So what does that make you?”
Paul: “A liar, but I am still a good person! I have kept most of the commandments and besides God is very merciful and He will forgive me.”
Me: “How many commandments would you have to break before God would have the right to send you to hell forever?”
Paul: “Oh, I would say, five (5).”
Me: “So, if I understand correctly, you can break five of the commandments and God will still have to accept you. Is that correct?”
Me: “Which five are you allowed to break?”
In a hesitant voice, Paul replied: “I’m not sure.”
Me: “Let’s continue our test. Have you ever stolen anything that did not belong to you?”
Paul: “No, never!”
Me: “Not even one little piece of fruit that you did not buy and that you did not work for?”
Paul: “Ok, maybe just one or two things.”
Me: “So what does that make a person if they steal?”
Paul: “A thief, but that is not me!”
Me: “Next question, have you ever looked at a woman with lust in your heart? Remember Paul that God knows your heart and whether you will be telling another lie or not.”
Paul lowered his gaze to the dirty floor of the porch and finally responded, “Well, maybe I have a problem with my eyes sometimes!”
Me: “Therefore, if a person looks at another with lust in their heart, then Jesus said that they have committed adultery in their heart even if not actually in a physical sense!”
Paul: “That’s not good!”
Me: “So, according to your own admission, you are a thief, a liar, and you have committed adultery in your heart. Have you ever disrespected your parents?”
Paul: “Yes, I was not a very good boy growing up, but I am better now!”
Me: “Have you ever taken the name of the Lord in vain?”
Paul: “Yes, but only a few times.”
Paul was getting desperate now that he realized that I had just found out he had broken at least five of the commandments. “Please, don’t ask anymore. God is merciful and He will forgive me if I have broken any more.”
(…to be continued…)