“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
It is excruciatingly heartbreaking to know there are so many (so, so, SO many!) people out there who are NOT free, because they don’t know or have turned their backs on Christ. I’ve been having spiritual conversations with people a lot more often these days (God has been opening lots of doors!) and most of the conversations leave me wanting to cry. People are confused, hurting, defensive, and utterly lost. But they are so deeply loved by their Creator – so very, very loved. He has been sharing His heart for them with me – it’s soul-achingly beautiful and painfully distressing at the same time. His grief over these people is deeper than we can possibly fathom.
They need to be shown (His love) and told (the gospel). Contrary to popular belief, sharing the gospel is NOT optional for a believer – Jesus commissioned every single one of us to go out in the world and do just that. I like this saying I heard a long time ago: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.” In most cases, talk is cheap. As his missionaries to a dying world, we need to roll up our sleeves and SHOW them (tangibly – in a way they can understand) God’s love. Does this mean we all need to go to a foreign country? Of course not. Some are certainly called to do that, but for the majority of us, we enter our mission field the moment we get out of bed or step outside our door in the morning. Wherever God’s got us right this minute…THAT’S our mission field.
For example, that neighbor we’re so friendly with? You know – the one we laugh and joke with while we’re both out there shoveling snow in the winter but don’t really talk to very much the rest of the year (I’m preaching to myself here, by the way) – have we reached out to them? Why not? They are our neighbors, but more than that they are beloved creations of our heavenly Father. If God has put a bible-believing-Holy Spirit-filled-child-of-God in their neighborhood that in itself should be our first clue…HERE IS OUR MISSION FIELD. There is no excuse (none!) for them not to have been touched by the love of God through us at some point. And if we step out in faith and God opens a door for a relationship with them to develop, we will have even more opportunities to show them God’s love and may eventually earn the right (as friends) to speak into their lives.
One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us. – John Wesley
The burning in my spirit, the need to remember this is life and death for every single one of them – literally life and death – is so strong. I know (trust me, I KNOW!) it is incredibly easy to get so caught up in what’s going on in our own lives we can tend to forget that sometimes. But while God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He DOES expect obedience from His children just like we expect it from ours. So when we get a little nudge from Him to do or say something kind, thoughtful, or unexpected for someone, whether it’s a neighbor, a stranger in the grocery store, family member, co-worker, whoever… WE SHOULDN’T QUESTION OR IGNORE IT. I admit, to my shame, that I have been guilty of that very thing more times than I can count.
I live in a small, 5-unit apartment building. Several months ago, my neighbor across the hall, Brendan, an unbeliever, but a nice enough guy for the most part, was carried out of his apartment in a body bag. He was around my age. He had been injured (or had surgery? I forget) and was on narcotics for the pain.
Unfortunately Brendan mixed the narcotics with alcohol and it depressed his respiratory system to the point he stopped breathing in his sleep. We chatted superficially a bit occasionally when we were out shoveling or if we bumped into each other in the parking lot (although admittedly not often because he smoked and cigarette smoke makes me sick to my stomach), but we never had a single remotely meaningful conversation in the 18+ months he’d been living here. What really upsets me about this is that it’s entirely possible that he’s now eternally separated from God, which means fiery torment – forever. And even though I know it’s not my fault if that is the case, I still bear even a small measure of responsibility for not being concerned enough about his eternal destination when he was alive. I know that as a woman living alone I need to be extra-careful when it comes to my interactions with men (especially unbelievers), but I never even asked God what I could do. Maybe if I HAD asked, God might have said “nothing.” But I didn’t even ask. And now it’s too late.
My intent here is not to put anyone (myself included) under condemnation. We are, after all, human. But this passion stems from the knowledge and conviction that I have lived a great deal of my own life in a self-centered fog. And you know something? I don’t ever want to be that way again. Ever. E-V-E-R. I want nothing more than to always be able to see every single person I meet through God’s eyes – cherished, created in love by Him and for Him; someone I want to see in heaven one day, worshipping God for eternity.
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Co. 9:19)
One of the many things I’ve learned from a friend of mine is that the best antidote when I’m feeling sorry for myself or am in (emotional) pain is serving others.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Truly, nothing makes me feel happier or more fulfilled than when I am serving others in some way.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even so, since I never felt as though I could identify completely with any of the spiritual gifts I read about in the Word, I asked God constantly for the last few years (in a whiny sort of way – like the proverbial little kid who’s feeling left out – with his head tilted off to one side, hands in his pockets, kicking rocks) “what’s MY gift?”
A couple of months ago He finally answered me.
“Love is your gift.”
Serving = Love
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Love = Freedom
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
“Does anyone know what it’s like…to be free?”* –Dylan Bradshaw
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
*(from the song “Free” written by Dylan Bradshaw of Total Surrender – link to song below)