This baby could do it!
Bee* was an 19 year old student who had been in the scholarship program at the Thai Peace Foundation. She had never heard the gospel, until now. Bee agreed to help me develop new stories for the story project - a set of 22 stories about Jesus that combine to make one unified story of redemption. But before we did that, we began with the old stories from the life of David. Simply by hearing those stories and being asked to reflect on their meaning, Bee discovered that man was sinful, that the God of Israel was a God of promise, that God keeps His promises, that God gave David a substitute to receive the punishment of His sin, that through that substitute David was forgiven of sin, cleansed and restored to a right relationship with God. She also learned that the God of Israel later expanded His promises to include all people from all nations - promising a Servant that would take upon himself the sin of man and restore them to right relationship with God. We were now ready to begin the life of Jesus. But there were some important personal questions I had for Bee before we began.
“Bee,” I asked, “do you believe this promise to send someone from the line of David to forgive sin is for Thai people too?” “Yes,” Bee replied, “it says so right here. He will bring justice to all the nations. That includes Thailand.”
Excellent, I thought to myself. “Bee, do you believe that promise is for you personally?” I asked. “Yes, I think that promise includes me. It includes everyone,” Bee answered confidently.
Even more excellent. “Bee,” I continued, “do you believe that God has already fulfilled that promise to you?” Bee paused to think before answering a somewhat confused “no.”
No worries, after all, Bee had never heard the end of the story. So I had one more question to ask in order to set us up for the next week of storytelling. “Bee,” I asked as I tried to hide my excitement, “do you believe God will keep His promise to you?” Bee didn’t miss a beat, she had learned well from the life of David. “Of course, God keeps His promises. He kept every promise He made to David and He will keep this one.”
Finally, I was ready to go, completely satisfied that Bee was ready for the next story. As I packed up my things Bee somewhat sadly mused out loud, “It’s too bad it won’t work.”
You can imagine how my heart sank and my complete confusion upon hearing those words. As I continued to talk with Bee, she explained how she viewed this story from the eyes of a Buddhist. It took my breath away.
"You see Suzy, this is really good in theory. It’s a wonderful plan and I believe it’s true, I just don’t believe it will work. You see, for someone to be able to take upon the sin of someone else, that person would have to be completely sinless, and no one is born without sin. It’s in their karma.”
In many ways, Bee nailed it. While we have to agree to disagree on the use of the word “karma,” I couldn’t argue with Bee’s reasoning. I was amazed that somehow, as a Buddhist, Bee completely understood an essential Christian doctrine about the sinlessness of Christ (Romans 5:18-19). The only lingering question for myself was, “will the story of the virgin birth be enough to convince Bee that Jesus would be a worthy sacrifice for our sins? Will she see in the virgin birth that Jesus breaks this Buddhist concept of karma?” I honestly didn’t know how Bee would react, but I had been doing storytelling long enough to simply trust the story.
One week later, after the virgin birth…
“Bee, last week you told me that you thought God’s plan to forgive man was good, but that it wouldn’t work. You said that in order for this plan to work, the Servant in Isaiah who takes on the sin of others would have to be without any sin in his own life. He would have to be born without karma. If he wasn’t perfectly sinless, he wouldn’t be a worthy sacrifice. What do you think now? Could God’s plan work?”
Bee smiled somewhat shyly, “Yes. This baby could do it.”
Whew. Inwardly I sighed and celebrated all at once. I was, once again, in awe of the story of God. How amazing is it that God writes a story of redemption so perfectly - that satisfies every man’s questions, doubts, challenges, and conditions? How amazing is it that He has put the very template of salvation in our hearts - that no matter what culture we come from and what belief system we have, that we can somehow grasp the salvation story. Bee could even somewhat predict how the story would unfold.
I was ready to leave again. Then Bee casually said… “it’s too bad it won’t work.” You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought to myself. Bee continued to explain, “Suzy, for God’s plan to work, this baby will have to grow up and remain sinless, and that is impossible. Then he’ll have to willing take upon the sins of other people, otherwise it just would not be fair. And nobody would do that.”
I smiled silently. Oh how I couldn’t wait for the rest of the story!
* names have been changed