|A painting that shows people working on building the ark. Image source.|
Ham wove his way through the crowd of people, to the stand where the best melons were sold. Summer meant melon season, and Ham was excited to buy a bunch and bring them home. The market was full of people that day- men, women, and children. Some carried bags or boxes, some pushed carts, occasionally he saw a cart pulled by a donkey- for some reason the driver thought it was a good idea to try and drive right through the crowd.
He'd been here before, but he felt like he was seeing them all in a new way. Humanity. Humanity is good. There was something wonderful about seeing the way people interacted, how they picked out the fruits they wanted. Most of them were probably planning a really fantastic meal. For the first time, Ham didn't feel sorry for anyone. He wasn't worried about their fate in the flood. People are good. People are good, and God can't do that. The flood just doesn't make sense.
He would talk to Shem, he decided. Shem was smart. Shem would understand. God loves us, and God won't send a flood. It was good news! They wouldn't have to worry about getting the ark ready, and Ham wouldn't have to worry about God killing his friends.
Ham arrived home with two bags of melons. After cutting up a few of them, Ham sat down with Shem to tell him the good news.
"I want to ask you something," Ham began. "You know how we often say 'people are basically bad'? Well, it's true that everyone sins, but in some sense, don't you think people are basically good too?"
"Sure, in a sense," answered Shem. "But I wouldn't necessarily go around saying that. A lot of people in our society think that sin doesn't matter and that they don't need the ark to save them. If you say 'people are basically good' it might sound like you agree with them. And that's a dangerous teaching."
"No but I mean... it doesn't make sense for God to punish people with the flood. People don't deserve that."
Shem looked startled. "Ham. God is holy."
"Yes but why would that mean he has to kill everybody? How is that what 'holy' means?"
"God has to punish sin. See, okay, let's say someone committed a crime, like murder. And the judge said, oh, it's fine, I forgive you, because I LOVE you and can't punish you" (Shem's voice got high at the word "love") "now, would you say that judge is just or not? You would be outraged, right?"
Ham stared at him. It was a line of reasoning he'd heard hundreds of times- that he himself had even repeated in his efforts to share the gospel- but now it made him so angry. Why would Shem say that- did he think Ham had never heard it before? Was Shem treating him like one of his evangelistic projects? And the way he mocked love and forgiveness- oh god.
Shem was still looking at him. Finally, Ham said, "okay." And then found an excuse to leave.
He would try talking to Zedkat. She was more warm and friendly than Shem. Ham filled a bowl of melon slices and went to find her. She was at home, cleaning and humming "your love never fails."
"Hi honey! I bought melons today." He handed the bowl to her and she took a slice. "Also, there's something I need to tell you. ... I was thinking, God really loves people. And God knows everything. God knows the goodness in people's hearts."
"Yeah, definitely," said Zedkat. "We have to let our light shine so people can see God in us." She took another bite of melon.
"No, I mean..." Ham took a deep breath, "I mean even people who don't believe in the ark. They're good too."
"You mean like common grace? And how everyone has a conscience, they know right and wrong..."
"Yeah. People are good. Or at least..." he was going to say it, here it comes, "... they don't deserve the flood."
"Ah, but our sin-"
"No no no no no. You don't have to tell me- I know what my dad says about our sin. I just ... how could it be 'justice' to kill everyone on earth?"
"God's ways are not our ways, honey."
"But ... okay, I don't want my friends and neighbors to die. How could God want that, if God is loving?"
"Ham, of course he doesn't want that. God's heart breaks for the lost. But he is also just- and you know, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God 'your will be done' and those to whom God says 'your will be done.' He has to-"
"I KNOW! I know, geez. You think I don't already know all those arguments? Yes, God's justice, balanced with his love, and he gives us free will, I ... just... I ..." He was trying to come up with something to say without using the word "crap" or "bullshit" but nothing came to mind.
Zedkat stared, shocked by his sudden anger.
"I'm sorry, honey," he mumbled, leaving the house. Why couldn't she understand? Why did she immediately make arguments against him, instead of asking why he didn't believe in the flood? Well, of course, thought Ham. That's what Noah taught us. That's what evangelism is. The goal is always to convince the other person. You don't listen.
How had he not seen that coming?
Ham sat down outside the house as dark clouds gathered in the sky above him. What was he going to do? He had to try to talk to her again. He had to be patient. He loved her, and she loved him, and now they would test if that love was greater than her commitment to always having the right answer.
Maybe he could talk to his mom. Maybe she would listen to why he didn't believe in the flood. He got up and walked over to Noah and Naamah's house as the sky got darker.
To be continued ...