My very first week on staff with Cru, fresh-out-of-college, my trainer took me up to the top floor of the imposing student center at the University of Minnesota. We looked down on the sprawling mass of students, scurrying to their classes. She read Matthew 9:36-38 aloud. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Together we prayed that we’d see people with Jesus’ eyes.
I’ve thought of that these last few weeks. I’m facing one of my biggest challenges ever, and I want, no, I need, to see people with compassion. The ones who may anger me with their blatant disregard of God and His ways are people dearly loved by Him. Jesus saw through to their true state: sheep in desperate need of a shepherd. I want Jesus’ heart to become mine. Jesus, who said He wanted to gather the Jews like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they didn’t let Him. Jesus, who was despised but didn’t despise back. Jesus, full of grace and truth, who loved them. If they only knew Him, really knew Him.
I’ve lived and ministered in lots of dark places around the world. It’s funny, but when we moved to the buckle of the Bible Belt, it probably seemed to many like I was giving up and settling for an easy way out in my sunset years. Then I enrolled in a graduate writing program in Asheville. (Asheville today is a lot like Berkeley 30 years ago.) This semester I’m taking a Creative Nonfiction Workshop class. My classmates and I write bits of memoirs and read them aloud each week. As I drive home late in the evening, down the steep dark mountain, my spirit is deeply grieved as I rehearse the dark subject matter and foul language from my troubled classmates. Shepherdless sheep. Disillusioned, hurt, and bitter sheep, railing against God.
I try to gaze with heavenly vision past their gruff exteriors to their needy hearts. I pray God would use me, somehow, to be a light in the darkness. I ask Him for wisdom to utter words that would attract them to Jesus – not too much or they’ll discount any future thing I ever say, but just a glimmer here and there. Just enough. Even during the weeks where no light-shining words come from me, I pray my spirit, my countenance, my genuine care for them would soundlessly proclaim His love.
When I was on staff at the University of California in Berkeley, the group Spiritual Counterfeits once spoke to us about the effective tactics cults use. I’ll never forget what they said. The cults reach out to lonely people with kindness and friendship. That’s how they win people over. They don’t try to reason with them. The brainwashing comes later, once the person is ensconced in the cult’s clutches.
We’ll never be able to win back someone indoctrinated (whether by cults or by the world’s philosophies) through our polished arguments. We win them by love. We win them by demonstrating Jesus’ love to them, while not fudging with the truth. Always, truth and love must be together. We can never separate love and truth or our message, whether in word or deed, is futile.
As I type this, I realize it must sound impossible. Because it is! It’s totally impossible for us. But not for Jesus. Therein lies the secret. Jesus is the One, the only One, who can enable us to love with His perfect love. To see with His clear, x-ray vision that penetrates through to the heart.
Oh, God, may I love and see the way You do.