Jason didn't speak for almost a full minute, and Thornton must have thought he'd hung up, "Jason, are you still there?"
"Yeah, sorry, I'm still here, just- confused I guess."
"Confused about what I just told you?" Thornton probed.
"No. Well, kind of, in a way. You know when I was a kid I went to Sunday school. Not all the time, but pretty regularly. Now, I didn't always pay the greatest attention, but I do remember how the teacher would talk about how Jesus loves us. It didn't mean anything to me at the time- I was just there for the piece of candy we got if we behaved during class- but I think my Sunday school teacher really believed that God loved us. Now, Don tells me that I'm a sinner, and that somehow separates me from God. Plus you're telling me all this stuff about sin and death- please don't misunderstand me, it's not that I think you're making it up because I've read it in the Bible for myself, but I just want to know who is right; with such vastly different perspectives I'm really confused."
"It's not two different perspectives." Thornton broke in.
"What do you mean?" Jason queried, "Didn't you hear what I just said?"
"Yes, I heard you just fine," Thornton answered, "But I'm telling you that both are true."
"That isn't possible!" Jason exclaimed, "They are opposites!"
"Nonetheless, both true. God is love. The Bible says so in many different ways and places. By the same token, God is also absolute Holiness and Righteousness, and therefore cannot so much as look upon sin. Just because He is loving doesn't mean God has no standards. It's like being a parent. I realize you don't have children yet, but I do, so I feel qualified to speak on this point. When my children were younger- especially when they were teenagers, they would push the limits of what we would allow. I expect you did the same thing at that age." Jason made a noise that indicated assent. "Sometimes they would push too hard, so to speak, and would go beyond the limit of acceptable behavior. At that time there were consequences, if you know what I mean." Jason did, and said as much. "Now, just because I punished my children didn't mean I stopped loving them, and just because I love them doesn't mean I didn't set standards for their behavior."
"Oh." That actually made sense.
"We've talked about sin and its consequences quite a bit, so let's talk about God's love for us. You said you didn't always pay attention as a child, so you might have missed a few things. God reveals His unfathomable love for us through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I know you told me Don talked to you about Jesus dying and raising from the dead, but some things are worth covering again, and this is definitely one of them. Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, and in fact, is God, chose to become a man. This made Him no less divine, and yet He was entirely a man at the same time. He lived an average life for about thirty years, and a somewhat extraordinary one for three more. After that, he was killed. If you're into crime I guess it would be sensational- the betrayal of friends, false accusations, corrupt officials, an angry mob... then finally an early morning execution. All the while the accused speaks nothing in His own defense."
"Why not?" Jason couldn't resist asking. "If it was such an obvious set up, surely something could have been done."
"Oh, it was definitely a set up." Thornton assured him, "They brought in false witnesses to testify, but they couldn't even agree with each other."
"Sounds like a case that should have been thrown out."
"We'd like to hope so, wouldn't we? But remember, Jason, I said that Jesus chose to do this. No one forced Him to his death- He made that very clear."
"Why would an innocent Man allow Himself to be executed? And in such a… gruesome manner?"
"It's literally the greatest love story ever. Even though we are sinners and even though our sin separates us from God, Jesus still came to die for us out of love so that through Him we can have a relationship with God."
Jason took a moment to digest this new info. "So salvation is about more than just going to Heaven?" He didn't seem to remember that from Sunday school, but he hadn't the most attentive pupil of course.
"Yes! Absolutely! I mean, Jesus Christ is the only way to get to Heaven, but once you trust Him as Savior, you'll find out there is so much more. Not only do you have eternal life to spend forever with Him, but also new life right now. Knowing Jesus will drastically change you forever. It's the only way to ever truly know God's love for you and also the only means by which your burden of guilt can be eased."