Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Is their life beyond the red letters?

One of the women in my Bible Study was sharing an experience she had in Mongolia last year. She was on a missions trip and was instructed to meet with a group of women every day for one week straight to share the gospel message and hopefully lead them to salvation through Christ. This was her first missions trip and there was a huge language barrier, so to say she was slightly intimidated is a huge understatement. She prayed for God to give her the words to reach these women. At first, they seemed very disinterested, as if they were there out of obligation and not because they wanted to be. They were very distant and paid little attention to her as she spoke. Again, she was apprehensive and cried out to God. On the last day of the trip, she set aside the agenda given to her and began to share some very intimate glimpses into her life. She told the women of her husband’s recent infidelity with his secretary (they worked at a church together), his lack of interest in their marriage, and ultimate decision to leave her. She fought back tears as she related her feelings about the situation – her fears and her sadness – and struggled to maintain composure. She had a difficult time deciding just how much, if any, of the story to share, but felt God had led her to divulge to these women. And so she did. And a group of 15 women who had previously maintained a cold distance between themselves and her, suddenly changed. They literally shifted their chairs closer to her, forming a tight circle and stared intently, hanging on every word. At the close of the evening, they thanked her for sharing and immediately left the study. They returned several hours later with gifts they had purchased in the local shops and those who had no money actually went home to find some small token of their appreciation for her honesty. She had finally reached them, on the last night, in the eleventh hour. As she shared this experience with the women of our Bible Study, she added that many of them chose to give their lives to God that week and gave God the glory for strengthening her through this test of faith.

So as I pondered this experience, the same theme kept ringing in my mind. Is it possible to share the gospel without sharing the actual word of God? Can we share the gospel through our struggles – our thoughts, feelings, emotions and weaknesses? By just relating to someone and meeting them on their level? By being genuine and open and sharing our life experiences with them? So often when we are approaching non-believers, we go straight to the Bible - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - but seem to miss out on something in the process. The protestors at the abortion clinics dispel the word of God to broken, lost souls who may need a friend more than a pamphlet telling them when a fetus becomes a human being. Sometimes an alcoholic may need a ride home more than the scriptural foundation for why drunkenness is a sin. And maybe sometimes it’s more important to try to understand why someone of another faith has chosen their belief system rather than convince them ours is the ‘right’ way. If we truly believe God has the power to save souls, maybe we should take an active interest in the lives of others, instead of trying to get them interested in what we believe. I think we can SHOW them God’s love on occasion. You know, focus on the works of God and not necessarily the words of God. Of course, every situation is different and calls for a different course of action (or reaction or no action). But I believe that’s what following Christ is all about. I mean, can we really decide how to approach someone or learn to relate to them if we haven’t taken the time to listen to them? You probably wouldn’t spend three hours sharing how pleased you are with the outcome of the latest election to a friend who lives in a communist nation. And I’d venture to guess you wouldn’t brag about your shiny, new Mazarati to the child you sponsor in a third world country. Christ met his followers on THEIR level – heard the cries of their hearts – and addressed them accordingly.

I think sharing the cry of our hearts and the touch of our hands and the warmth of our shoulders may be received a lot better in certain situations than reciting scripture verbatim. Don’t the red letters scream at all of us, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest?” They don’t necessarily admonish us to, “Read this to everyone you encounter who does not believe and all good things will be yours.” They offer comfort and a soft place to land, not always a jumping off point. Lead them to Jesus and He will speak. How we lead them to Jesus is where God’s discernment comes in. Do we share the Bible alone or do we share ourselves and how the word of God has changed us? Sometimes I get so exhausted in my own ‘walk’ with God and have nothing leftover to share anyway. Nichole Nordeman wrote a song describing the conflict between how perfect we strive to be for God and how short we fall. The chorus sings to us all that we can never be good enough, but God takes us as we are because He is the only one who can. There is one line that I love that really hits home for me. “At the end of myself, at the end of the day, I can find little else but the courage to say, ‘I need you, that’s all.’” Yep, that’s pretty much it for me. Sometimes it’s hard for us to muster up enough energy to keep believing ourselves, let alone try to find the right words to help someone else climb aboard the God train. So in those times, maybe sharing ourselves, our struggle and our human weakness is just as appropriate as sharing the word of God.
I’ll leave you with this…isn’t it our humanity that points to God’s divinity? Just a thought.

No comments: