Monday, July 16, 2012

Does God ever give up on anybody?

I went to listen to a well-respected Christian leader a couple of years ago.  He talked about "fools" who have basically rejected God's authority in their lives.  And he used that term on purpose, because, after all, Psalm 14:1 says that "a fool says in his heart there is no God."  As he discussed this category of people, he basically said that it wasn't worth his time to pursue them and try to bridge to them for the purpose of being light in their lives.  He reasoned that God sometimes gives people over to their desires and allows them to live without his presence because they've chosen to reject him. 

I hear other speakers on this topic encourage people to share their faith in whatever way they can, and then give them permission to “shake the dust off their feet” and walk away.  Maybe they’re not one of “the elect.”  And haven’t we done our part once we say the words?

And I see still others, lay people, struggling with this concept too.  I see them building a relationship which then culminates in just inviting someone to a church service or an outreach event.  And if the person invited says no, often they walk away from that relationship.  It’s too awkward to continue pursuit.  Or really, there’s nothing that can be done.

Like Abraham in the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, a part of my heart wants to cry out against giving up.  I want to appeal to God’s mercy and cry out to God to save them, even though they say in their hearts that there is no God, or they reject his authority in their lives.  Because I believe that there’s a part of conversion that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit.  And because we were all dead in our trespasses and sins until God saved us.  If he hadn’t reached out and pursued me when I was rejecting him and rebelling against him, I would be in the same boat.

At the end of the day, I think I generally go forward believing that God is a God of mercy and grace.  It is within his character to rescue and restore and redeem all people—even those who most stubbornly oppose him.  And I know that, if they really have chosen to reject God consciously, the only time they may sense his presence in the world is when they sense the Holy Spirit in me.  I’ve been commanded and invited to pursue others with love and grace and mercy in the name of Christ.  Who am I to decide that it’s time to give up on them?

And so I pray and I struggle and I cry tears of compassion and of heartbreak for the abundant life with the Eternal One that they are missing out on right now.  I invite Jesus to touch their lives through me and apart from me.  And I never stop hoping for the day when they will see the face of Jesus and surrender their hearts to him.

Are you being Jesus to anyone who has intentionally rejected him?  What are your struggles with this?  What are you praying that God will do?  How can the church help and support you in this endeavor?

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