Yesterday, I ran into a friend that I haven’t seen in a very long time, a lost friend whose salvation I have prayed for with a deep ache in my chest. I know that my friend is not a Christian by her own admission. She isn’t opposed to or turned off by Christianity, exactly, but confused by the simplicity of it and the absolute surrender required of those who choose Jesus.
My friend seems to be seeking, though, as she uses the key words and phrases of several religions in everyday conversation, not standing firm on any one doctrine, but espousing the ideology of each to the degree that it serves her present purpose and makes her feel better. It hurts my heart to watch and listen to her like it hurts my heart to watch toddlers in the nursery wait anxiously for their parents after Sunday school. I just want to see them safely home, safely held.
When I saw my friend more often, I made a conscious effort to look for opportunities to share my faith, to talk about Jesus, and to speak the Truth. More often than not, I disappointed myself, recognizing the opportunity just after the moment had passed.
The same thing happened yesterday. When I saw my friend, my first thought was her salvation. Not having expected to see her, my heart jumped at the thought that our chance meeting could end up being the divine appointment that would finally change her eternity forever.
A short time later, I left the conversation feeling ashamed and quite sure that my friend would have been better off had she not run into me. I had lied, I had laughed at things that God calls detestable, and I had personally taken the conversation in a direction that was unbecoming for a follower of Jesus Christ.
My face red, my neck prickly with heat, I said “good-bye” and made my way to the car, trying hard to hold back the tears.
What had I done? WHY??!!
Truth? I wanted her to like me.
I want her to like me so she’ll think I’m cool and listen to what I have to say. Oh, I guess, on some level, I’m still just a kid who wants to feel like a chosen friend, get invited to things, and be taken into confidence—we all are, you know—but it’s truly more than that. My friend needs to hear the story of Jesus, she needs to understand what it has to do with her, and she needs to respond to the Gospel by surrendering her life to Jesus Christ. I can help her do that. I know the Way, but I can’t help her if she won’t listen, so I keep trying to impress her and keep leaving important words unsaid.
Yesterday, my friend needed to see evidence of a supernaturally changed heart, and I offered her a private tour of worldly behavior and conversation.
She needed to witness contentment in the Father’s extravagant love, and I demonstrated a desperate need for peer approval.
Above all, she needed to find forgiveness and freedom, and I set up a roadblock in her path.
Intentional or not, the result is the same, and I’m sick over it.
Christians, understand. The Gospel is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Furthermore, “no one comes to the Father unless the Holy Spirit draws Him,” and “everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to [Jesus]” (John 16:44-45). God does not need our help in saving the world, but for His glory and by His grace, He commands our participation (Matthew 28:19-20).
It really doesn’t matter on any level whether or not the world likes us; it only matters whether or not they accept Him. So, let’s you and I, at the beginning of this brand new year, resolve to do four things:
- Be honest about the choices we make, the words that come out of our mouths, and their potential to impact others,
- Quit working so hard for man’s approval,
- Focus on truly living a “life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1) in every aspect,
- And speak the whole Truth in love.
In short, let’s give the Gospel room to do its thing and change the world.