When you think of people who do not know Jesus, what do you feel?
i) Hopeless, like you are losing a cultural war
ii) Anger at their activities
iii) Envious of their freedom
iv) Frustrated at their unhealthy choices
v) Nothing. They are non-people
vi) Compassion because of their lostness
vii) Other ?
Awhile back I was doing a Discovery Group in a dimly lit house. They had one 20 watt light bulb. I read the Bible I brought with the light from my cell phone. Some of the reasons for their poverty was because of their unhealthy choices. During our second meeting one lady said, “I am so tired of this life. I am tired of the drinking, the smoking, the drugs, all of it.” I was encouraged. But the next week this lady and her husband did not come to the meeting. Nor the next week. Finally I asked them what had happened. “Thiago (her brother-in-law) who is leading this group is into some bad stuff. If the cops come we will all be implicated. We don’t want to be around him anymore.” While this reason is logical, this couple did not want to start their own group either. So I let it go, but I still stop in to say hi occasionally. During one of these visits my friends told me more of their story. Her husband loved to smoke pot. He used up all his wages so her and their three small children often went hungry. After that Discovery Group meeting her husband never smoked pot again. He was standing right there. “I never wanted to again.” Six months later, it’s all still true. They don’t want a Discovery Group, and the husband still doesn’t like pot. A few things changed though. They got legally married, and asked me to be the testimony / best man. And she is giving birth to their fourth child this month.
The original group, with the violent brother-in-law, continued for awhile before disbanding because they moved back to his mom’s house. The environment there was not conducive to a group so they asked me to wait until they were in their own place again. In the meantime I did an Immanuel Prayer session with him. Thiago easily found Jesus in a positive memory. They were in the back of a 5-ton flatbed truck coming in from a village when the truck his a huge bump. His cousin flew over the side so Tiago grabbed him in such a way that he lost his balance, so his mom pulled them both back into the back of the big truck. Jesus was in the back of the truck with them, laughing. He could describe Jesus, and see the expression on His face. “So what was good about that memory?” His response was immediate. “The adventure.”
I told him, “Tiago, you have no idea of the many adventures God has planned for you.”
Still, we never could get a Discovery Group going again. We continued to meet every few months. We were always going to start just a little in the future. Tiago’s dad left their family when he was three. His mom never did forgive the dad, who lives with someone else in a neighboring town. Tiago was affected by this, for sure. It shaped who he became, though he is still responsible for his choices as an adult. This week-end I am travelling. I just got word that Tiago was shot and killed. I am really sad. I think God is sad too. It seemed to me like Tiago was so close to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus instructs us in Luke 10 to let go of the people and groups that are not ready, so that we have more time to find and help people who are ready to receive Jesus. This is difficult, because as we get to know people’s stories, we realize they are so close to a much better life. Jesus Himself was motivated by compassion for lost people. I realize that many people are not suffering quite to the extent of Tiago and his family, but that is even more difficult for these people to recognize their need for God. Jesus says the gospel improves our life in this age and in the age to come (Luke 18:29-30). What need can God possibly meet in your friend’s lives? Everyone is poor in some ways. It might be financial, social, mental, physical, or spiritual. When we look for People of Peace with the intent of preparing them to receive Jesus’ in their home we are 1) obeying Jesus, 2) helping people meet their needs, and 3) lining up with our purpose in life. It is satisfying. To do this in the most efficient way possible, we spend the most time with the people who are the most ready.
When I think of people who do not know Jesus I feel like I am asking the question, “Would you rather be poor and sick, or rich and healthy.” Or “would you like to suffer for nothing, or would you prefer to suffer for a boss who pays huge and eternal rewards for suffering?” I can see my friends thoughtfully pondering these questions like they are real puzzlers.
What is your attitude towards non-Christians?