- I am grateful for the ding dong doorbell on my heart this morning as I read my devotions. Out of the cloudy gray sky since there is no clear blue today, I am now convicted to begin praying about something, a far-out wacky idea that has to be the far-outest, wackiest idea ever and I cannot see how in the world it is fathomable or possible, but I believe it is from God and I must pray about it. I haven’t had that strong of a ding dong doorbell on my heart in a long time. And it had nothing to do with my devotions. I think He just sensed I was in a place to listen.
- And on a completely different subject, and I put this one second so that you can X out now if this is of no interest to you but it is to me and I write all of this grateful stuff to keep myself accountable and no one else, so read on at your own risk, because I am grateful for insight, for conviction, for painful growth that requires I look back in order to change going forward.
Something has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s the Pharisee book I am re-reading, maybe it is conviction, maybe it is just that I am growing and becoming wise. Most likely, the book and conviction combined.
I used to think I had all the answers to everyone’s issues. And it was my duty, my calling as a Christian, to “help” others see the light. I would do so in kind and empathetic emails and cards and phone calls and more recent, in posts on Facebook. Rarely face-to-face, although I did plenty of face-to-face “come to Jesus” passive-aggressive motivational talks with my students and my daughters. I cringe as I think back…
How righteous of me to think that I had all the answers, that I could possibly “rescue” someone from themselves, that I could draw someone to Jesus through my emails and posts and “I’ll pray for you’s.”
You’re nothing like me. I cannot relate to what you are saying. Your life is perfect. You don’t know my kind of problem.
I remember now, on a few occasions, being told something like that by students who were in the middle of crisis and drama. And all the while, my inside was dark, my own world was in turmoil. And very few knew. The few who had a glimpse and a clue into my world played the part, too, actors on a stage, with me trying to please God and earn my way rather than trust Him with the truth and the ugly.
I see how some of my connections on social media do exactly as I do, intentions genuine, of course. We think it’s our obligation and duty to rescue people from themselves. My pastor once said that those bumper stickers and billboards that promote a candidate or a cause have most likely never caused the reader to say, “Well, I’ve been wrong all along! I must switch my affiliation/belief right now!”
My posts on Facebook, my emails that hit home with me, do nothing to sway another’s beliefs and convictions, but they are fuel for the fire to those who are “righteous” alongside me.
All the while, the ones I really wanted to reach with the “truth” are most likely the ones who are saying, “You’re nothing like me. I cannot relate to what you are saying…”
Funny how something jumps out from the computer at you when you are focused on that very thing. Like this, today:
“Friend of Sinners…” (from CampusNavs.org)
By Rachel Christofel – Jan 12, 2016
- A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
- A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
- A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
Jesus is described in Luke 7:34 as the “Friend of Sinners”. This means that Jesus was liked, trusted, acquainted with, and allied in struggles with people who had yet to see him as their savior. Likewise, these things had to have been true of those people from Jesus’ point of view as well. After all, friendship is only friendship if it is mutual between two parties.
So I ask myself, “Am I a friend of sinners? Or am I functioning more like a ‘Rescuer of Sinners’ or ‘Stealthy Gospel Deliverer to Sinners’ or ‘Project Manager of Evangelism Outreach?’”
I’m struck by how quickly I focus on the word ‘sinners’ and far less on the word ‘friend.’
In this, I’m tempted to see evangelism as a project and people as the pieces to complete the task. This mindset stems from having amnesia in three areas.
- Viewing Myself in Light of the Gospel:
I often forget that I am no different than unbelievers around me. I too am hopeless. I too am fearful. I am inadequate. Only with Jesus do I have life to the full and live in a state of freedom. D.T. Niles describes evangelism as “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
Am I remembering who I was without Christ and who I am in Christ when I share with others?
2. Viewing People as People:
I forget that people are people. I forget they have hopes, dreams, tragedies, and convictions. I forget that, though open to hearing what I know, they may need time to run my thoughts through their worldview. When I forget this, I am missing the opportunity to converse deeply with them about the Gospel and really wrestle with them over its truth.
Nav Staff Eugene Burell asked something once that resonated with me. “Will you love people, simply because they exist and are created in the Image of God, even if they never come to know Christ?”
- Viewing God as God:
He is the forgiver of sins and the knower of hearts. He is the Savior that people need. Only He can woo people into a relationship with him. In light of this, my role in evangelism is not to be these things for people. My role is to be the bridge builder and the remover of barriers to the Savior.
Am I trying to do God’s job or am I clearing barriers for Him to be God?
This mindset shift challenges me to not turn evangelism into a project. I want to share with people because my heart yearns for my friends to be allied with the ‘Friend of Sinners.’ And I want to rejoice with them when Jesus welcomes these friends into the kingdom, not as sinners, but as saints saved by his precious blood.
I’ve been told that I share WAY TOO MUCH. I am an open book in this season. No secrets. I am who I am.
In this season of my life, I am drawn to people who say, “Me TOO!” I am drawn to people who can relate, who struggle with the same things. I steer WAY CLEAR of people who present themselves with all the answers, who pat my hand and say “I’ll pray for you,” who make me feel “less than.” I want to be around people who say, “I have no clue but I know Who does and that’s all that matters.” I want to be around people who will sit with me in my dark times without preaching their view. I want to be around bridge builders, the ones who will hold my hand in the muck and in silence and ME TOO strength, help me back across to Jesus.
I wish I could go back in time and take back the self-righteousness, be real instead of fake. I want the people of my past and present to know that I would hold their hand in the dark without opening my mouth, and that I would fight FOR them, defend them, and be their ally in the struggle. I want them to know that I fail, that I fall, that I sin, that I love them because they exist just as they are, as He loves me just as I am, in all of my imperfection and weakness.
He rang the doorbell. I opened the door. That simple.
(My apologies to those who made it to the end.)