Seeking Out Those Seeking God
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 NASB
John Wright wrote a great piece for the blog last week about how Jesus broke down barriers to reach out to those that his “people” would never have considered reaching out to. I had no idea what John was preparing, and the Lord put these thoughts on my heart weeks ago. This blog was pretty much written before his was posted last week. Maybe there’s a message God really wants Southeastern to hear.
How do we reach out to those seeking God? What does it mean to be seeking God? Does seeking God mean visitors to worship on Sunday, visitors to our pantry, parents of our preschoolers, neighbors, anyone that touches Southeastern in some way? What is our responsibility to take Christ to those seeking God? How do we do that? Are we afraid? What if they don't look like us?...talk like us?...dress like us? What if they are sinners? Do you have to compromise?
This is not a new topic. We've all been in these discussions before. Greg has talked to us so much about what it means to be the aroma of Christ. How are you doing with that? How am I doing with that? What are we willing to do to be Christ to those we come in contact with? Was Paul afraid to speak out at the Areopagus in Acts 17? Was Peter afraid to speak to Cornelius the centurion in Acts chapter 10? Did Paul know in Acts 14 when he spoke at Iconium that his own people, the Jews, would be so angry that they would be willing to stone him? Was he afraid? What do we fear? Impact on our jobs? People laughing at us at work or in our social circles? Is there so much confusion in the greater church today about what God condones and accepts because we are afraid to engage those people when they start to search for God? How much opportunity have we missed? Were opportunities missed to teach our children to love first so they could establish relationships and bring people to Christ? Is that why so many of our children choose to not walk in our shoes? Do you love people? I mean, do you really…love…people? Remember the video that Greg showed us a few years ago of Penn Jillette, the comic illusionist, speaking about the willingness of Christians to speak to others about Christ? Do you remember the question he asked? I’ll paraphrase, “If you know that someone's path could lead them to eternal loss why would you not want to share that with them to help him avoid such a tragic end?” Here’s an avowed atheist who recognizes the profoundness of what we believe - if what we believe is actually true!
I've spent far too many years willing to condemn and complain and criticize and far too many years unwilling to recognize that I have to love first. I have to care about the souls of those I know and those I don't know if I’m going to seek out those seeking God. I have to love everyone because I believe we’re ALL God’s children if I’m going to be brave enough to talk to them about coming home. I'm not just talking about Southeastern. I'm talking about the greater church. I'm not just talking about the churches of Christ. I'm talking about me, as a Christ-follower, being so concerned about getting my hands dirty or being affected by the words, lifestyles, attitudes, and beliefs of those who don't know Christ that I have too often been unwilling to sit with them, to walk with them, to eat with them, to be Christ with them. What’s the answer? Is it really so simple? “Strive to be more like Jesus…every day.” I need to be willing to sit with them, walk with them, eat with them, and be Christ with those that are seeking God. Some of you already do this, do it well, and do it daily. Thank you! So help us who need to get better at it.
As we start a new year, let's all commit to a journey to take Southeastern to a place that many of us don't recognize, that some have been looking for, and that some will be uncomfortable with. Jesus gave us examples of reaching out to the lost. He did not give us guidelines or preconditions for doing that. In John 4, he did it when he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He went against the customs and appropriateness of the day and interacted with her. The text doesn't tell us he set out a precondition that she must be willing to accept what he was about to tell her. He just offered her living water. Again, in John 8, Jesus stepped outside of our comfort zone. He defended the woman caught in adultery without preconditions. The text doesn't tell us that he knew that she would follow him or change her ways, he just broke with the social norms, refused to condemn her and pointed her in the direction of truth. In Mark 2, Jesus dined with sinners despite the scorn it raised with the religious leaders and likely the average person. Jesus was about saving souls, reaching out to the lost, about doing his Father’s work. Jesus was about building relationships so that he could build bridges between the lost and his Father. Building relationships is risky business. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s messy, sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes it’s disappointing. Jesus experienced those things right up to the cross and he still experiences them today. But seeking out those that are seeking God holds a reward worth the risk. If we love people then we want them to experience what we have. So join me in seeking out those who are not yet part of Christ’s body. Take a chance and start developing a relationship with a stranger.
As a new shepherd for what Greg calls “this kingdom outpost at Southeastern,” I ask that you pray for me and for all of the elders that we pray fervently for and listen to God's direction and that we come alongside everyone that considers this place home to grow not into what I want us to be or what you want us to be, but into what God wants us to be.
May His will be what guides our every step.