1st year Adult Nursing, Edinburgh Napier
“I was brought up in a home that called itself Christian, but attended meetings of a group in which many deny Jesus is God and who claim that to get to heaven you must be part of the group (aka the Two by Twos), which lead to me not truly understanding the gospel. I was always trying to be good for myself which lead to a constant feeling of failure. I was in trouble all the time at school and was suspended from my second for fighting and bullying. Looking back I was living for the fear and respect of others for me.
When being asked to prepare this story we were asked to include the answers to two questions; ‘When was the first time you heard the gospel?’ and ‘When did you accept Christ?’. To the Christian reader, my answers might seem strange but please read on.
I accepted Jesus when I was 12, it was shortly after my cousin had admitted she needed a relationship with Jesus. We were both on the upper floors of a ruined monastery, when I felt God challenge me, “If you both fall or the building collapses, she has a relationship with me and you don’t.” I knew it was true, I knew that if I died, I had no hope of eternal life and she did; shortly after I asked Jesus to be my savior. Almost overnight I stopped getting into trouble continually at school…was I perfect? No, but my violent behavior dramatically reduced to the point my parents never heard complaints about me again.
However ‘When did I hear the Gospel?’ is a different question for me, because of the group I was brought up in I was taught to fear God and read the Bible, but the Gospel was never taught. The focus was on trying to imitate Jesus’ example of the perfect life, rather than on trusting His righteousness. I had a relationship with God through my trust in Jesus, but I didn’t understand fully what that meant until much later.
In the summer of 2011 I visited Venezuela to visit a friend who was at university there. In the year above him was a young lady who changed my life. To use the cheesy line “we fell in love.” She would spend her Christmas holidays in the UK and I would spend my summers in Venezuela. Initially it was great, she knew her Bible far better than me so she seemed the ideal partner. She really challenged me to question what I believed and why, something I soon realised I couldn’t do. I couldn’t articulate what I believed and why I believed it, other than that I knew I needed a savior and that Jesus was the only answer.
There was however one small catch. She like many of those I’d grown up with in the Two by Twos denied that Jesus is God and believed in salvation by works. In fact she was, and to my knowledge still is, a Jehovah’s Witness. When I told the leadership of the Two by Twos about my relationship, they asked me to leave. At the time I took the view that we both believed in the same God so they had no reason for the decision, but I left the group. Having attended Christian Union’s in my secondary schools, I had already inwardly rejected the Two by Twos claim of exclusivity. The decision was still very traumatic, I was leaving the support of those I’d grown up with and had to deal with the guilt of knowing the pain my parents were in as they believed my decision would result in me going to Hell.
In my desperation and because it was an easy option I started studying with the Jehovah’s Witness and eventually started attending their meetings. However some of their teachings never sat right with me. I could never accept that there were two classes of Christians, those that would go to Heaven and others who wouldn’t. I also couldn’t accept that Jesus had returned invisibly in 1914.
I tried to ignore all of these, mainly because I loved my girlfriend at the time and because I bought into their rhetoric and evangelism on the streets. I continued to suppress my doubts until December 2014, when we started to seriously consider marriage, the assumption throughout the relationship was that after we both finished university she would move here and we’d marry, that deadline was getting closer. Given the seriousness of the decision I took a few days out to pray. During this time two passages in the bible were at the forefront of my mind. One was Jesus statement "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); the second was the phrase repeated often in the Old Testament “ I am Jehovah, and apart from me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11, 45:5 and Hosea 13:4). These were significant to me, firstly, because both the group I was brought up in and the JW’s claimed to be the only way to eternal life whereas Jesus himself is the way. Secondly, if I’m calling Jesus my Savior but denying He is God then something doesn’t add up. This had such a profound effect on me that I contacted my girlfriend and ended the relationship, I couldn’t imagine bringing up kids in a home where their father and mother had opposing beliefs and realised I was going against the Bible’s advise not be in a relationship with someone of a different faith (2 Corinthians 6:14).
From that point has everything been easy? Simply put, no. However I now have a better understanding of the gospel and although at times I still struggle to live according to my beliefs; I know Jesus has forgiven me and I know my eternal destination isn’t based on my works but on his goodness. The experience has taught me that neither the esteem of others, the comfort of a united family nor the pleasure of having a partner, can compare to the joy of a relationship with our Creator. My desire is that in whatever I find myself doing I can point those around me to Jesus and I hope and pray you have the same desire.”