The context as best I could gather is this.... Someone has died after a relatively long illness. A memorial is being planned. The two people seated next to me are mutual friends of the deceased and have been given the responsibility of planning the remembrance. Though acquaintances previously, I don't get the feeling they know each other very well, but they both were both very close with the man who died. Close enough, that they each had extensive conversations with him about what was coming after death. One of these people was very open about her Christian faith and the importance of sharing it openly. The other referred to himself as irreligious and was openly not interested in faith and actually had an aversion to it. Both were VERY passionate about their perspectives, to the point they had a very hard time communicated. There was a lot of awkward silence. Where this story gets interesting is in the fact they were each evidently told very different things by their dying friend about what HE believed... and within hours of each other. Each of them, both speakers at the memorial, thought it was important that what the dying man said about his view of the afterlife be shared at his memorial... creating a natural conflict. This dominated their conversation over coffee.
Bare in mind the man evidently had expressed great distress about his impending death. He was not at peace with it. This prompted each friend to share their beliefs with him. One shared a very traditional Christian view and stressed the importance of repentance and belief in Jesus, the other admitted complete uncertainly but nonetheless communicated confidence that the outcome would be good. The irony is that though they spoke with the same dying man within hours of each other and within days of his death, they were each told what they wanted to hear. One heard the man confess his faith in Christ and pray for salvation. He then expressed peace, knowing he'd be going to Heaven. The other delighted in how is friend agreed he was completely agnostic about the future, didn't really believe in a god, but expected whatever came next would be good because he'd "pretty much been a good person." Both were anxious to use the memorial as an opportunity to share the "truth" the the man "believed" about the afterlife. Regrettably, they each had a very different account of what that was, and the only one who could actually confirm the truth either way was now experiencing it first-hand, one way or the other.
Obviously, I have no way of knowing what the man actually believed. But the tragic reality that struck me from this exchange is that neither do either of his close friends. The man was very likely not completely honest about his beliefs with at least one, and possibly both of his friends. This was their last conversation. It's sad it couldn't have been more transparent.
Why this is the outcome I cannot know, but given my witness of the two friends, I have a theory. Both were very passionate about their convictions, divisively so. The Christian was belittling of the agnostic man and insisted on referring to him as "pagan," a label he didn't embrace. The agnostic clearly looked down on the Christian as forcing her beliefs on others and not sufficiently intellectual. Honestly, I could see how both were guilty as charged. In fact, I believe the reality is the dying man quite likely simply told each what he thought they wanted to hear in order to escape the conversation, be at peace with his friends, and maybe make THEM feel a little better. The result of course is that he likely received little comfort from either of them. Their final gift to him might very well have been confusion. This I find tragic.
So what is there to learn from this? I'd love to hear your thoughts. What I take from it is that while it's important to be willing and able to share our faith, it's critical that we be equally if not better prepared to be listeners.