“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLT)
When my sister, Patti, was in the hospital for the last time, we knew she was dying, so we were very concerned that whoever cared for her – nurses, doctors, even the people who came in to gather the trash – were kind and respectful. She was in a special unit that was supposed to limit the number of visitors at any one time to only two, but they quickly learned the circumstances and let as many as wanted to come in to visit her. We were especially appreciative of the nurses who cared for her.
One of the nurses would pray for Patti and us and would take time to let us know what was happening and seemed genuinely caring and interested in taking the very best care of her. We took turns spending the night with Patti, so when I had the opportunity, I would speak with the nurse on duty to share our family’s appreciation.
One nurse, who made it known that she was a believer, shared with me that unbelievers made her angry. It took me aback and has caused me to think about my own response to those who are pre-believers. Since I didn’t know her well, I didn’t push, but in my mind “anger” and “unbeliever” don’t belong in the same sentence.
Toby McKeehan wrote: “Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Befriend the lost. Love the lonely.” According to Jesus we’re to be salt and light, thus leaving unbelievers with a better impression of Jesus followers. The “religious” were the ones who angered the Lord, He had mercy and kindness for those who were lost.
As Jesus followers it’s our responsibility to live in a manner that is inviting, ideally leading to gospel conversations that arise out of the context of our love for those who don’t yet know the Lord. Amisho Baraka Lewis wrote: “You can’t fake love when you are harboring hate.” Think of the many conversations Jesus had with those who were, in the minds of the religious Pharisees, “scum.”
Tax collectors, adulterers, and other “sinners” flocked to Jesus, often to see what they could get from Him, but I’m convinced many came because Jesus was “safe.” They knew in His holy presence they wouldn’t be berated, ridiculed, or turned away. Jesus even touched lepers, which astounded the religious leaders, but delighted His followers.
In my mind’s eye I envision Jesus allowing lepers and many others to hug Him as they sought to express their appreciation for what He’d done for them. I can’t wait to hug Him, but I suspect I’ll need to bow in worship before I’ll be able to stand long enough to hug Him. He’s approachable, tender, loving, kind, caring, and every other word that expresses accepting. He never turned anyone away who came to Him in humility and honesty.
If you get angry with unbelievers, how do you ever expect to win them to Jesus? Or maybe that’s the issue. Maybe you don’t believe they deserve Jesus after all the ways they’ve hurt you. When I take time to recount just a few ways that I’ve hurt Jesus and others in things I’ve said and done in my life, I hang my head in shame.
Paul said of himself that he was the worst of all sinners, and I wholeheartedly concur as I view my own life. Jesus didn’t die to show us how good we are, but to enable us to see how very needy we are without Him. Toby McKeehan said: “If you spend time praying for people instead of talking about them, you might just get better results.” And you might also see that, if you’re angry with unbelievers, your anger is misplaced.
Blessings, Ed 😊