Over the past few weeks I’ve had a couple of conversations that linger in my mind and heart. A thread of truth woven into the fabric of our words…that people are not issues. People are people. And God loves people.
Fear not! Smile. I have no desire to opine on this blog about controversial, hot-button issues in our culture. Here is my thought and heart to share…We can hold fast to our convictions but we must realize that people are not issues. We can be passionate about our beliefs, but we must also be passionate about loving people.
I am deeply convicted about this. A few years ago as a Christian grappling with where I stand on “issues” intersecting where Jesus laid down His life for people, I had a profound experience. In the midst of it my heart heard, You’re in My way. Often we Christians tell the world around us what sinners they are but never open our hearts or the doors of our churches to those very people. It’s not right. If we would rather castigate and mock than reach out and minister we have sorely missed the point of the gospel. Sorely. I attend a church that has an “open door” heart to all people. “Real Hope for Real People in a Real World” is what we say. This is how I came to understand I might just be in His way…when I sensed God tugging on my heart to invite a person to come to church with me who obviously did not fit neatly into the Sunday church crowd. In His truth and kindness I was confronted with my own hypocrisy as I struggled with the invitation. See, if Jesus is Savior, if Jesus is healer, if Jesus is provider, if Jesus is redeemer…then don’t we all need to come near? Hear Him…see Him…know Him and be changed from the inside out? And if my life and church doors are really, when you get down to it, only open to those who agree with me and live like me and vote like me then I am in the way. In the way, not pointing the way.
Yesterday I had a chance to connect with a friend who recently served as a juror in a very intense trial. I listened to her heart and watched stray tears fall down her face. See, she experienced something first-hand that most of us can only talk or write about. An “issue” with a face, a life and a story. I dare say the experience has changed her own story.
Earlier this morning, as the sky was still pink and the sun not yet fully awake, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of this. Our God is one of justice and compassion. I’m not interested in watering down the truth of His Word, but neither am I interested in living the life of a Pharisee, adopting a closed-door policy. How are others to know freedom in Christ if the Christians keep Him locked away? As I sat at my table the apostle Paul came to mind (originally called Saul). I flipped over to Acts…read about how he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death and arrested many followers of Jesus.
The same Paul who wrote most of the New Testament.
Acts 9:3-4 (the message): He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
On his way to Damascus (to arrest Christians) Paul encountered Jesus in a blinding light and was changed forever. Once he saw and heard Jesus he became a stalwart follower and impacted history. Impacted you and I. How about it? How about the impact that could be had for Christ by those yet to really encounter Jesus? If they could only get close enough…if they could only hear Him, see Him, in us?
Rivers and Leah caught a few minutes of a broadcast trying to raise funds to feed hungry children this morning. The sight of swollen bellies, protruding ribs and flys, of skin disease and sad eyes stopped my children. They don’t know this kind of pain. This kind of need and hurt. As we sat at the table together talking about it Leah said, Maybe we should pray for them. So we did. Each of us took a turn praying for the children and the ministry trying to help them. Then I felt a nudge in my heart that my children need to know praying is good and right and necessary, but we should also reach out. Do something. We went onto the website and I pray the gift we gave made a deposit in their hearts, as well.
I want my girls to know that people are not just a news story, a controversial sin-issue or a global plight. Just like us, they are individuals with a story. I want Rivers, Leah and Leighton to know they can make a difference when they allow the Holy Spirit to unleash His love and power in their everyday lives. And I hope they catch a glimpse, every now and then, of a mom and dad trying our best to move out of His way so we can point the way.