James grew up in a family whose agnostic parents believe in evidence of things seen, in contrast to faith in the unseen. He and his brother and sister never had the stability of faith or a godly lifestyle. They used every illicit drug, lived the hippie life in 1960s
, tried Eastern religions and cults, dabbled in spiritualism, and many other things James is reluctant to talk about. San Francisco
Then one day, two people came uninvited to James’ home and shared their faith with him. He asked them about the Ouija board he was experimenting with, and they explained from the Bible how he was placing his life in the Devil’s care when playing that “game.” He continued to study with them, and joined their denomination. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted to serve in the
military. But as part of his newfound beliefs, he would not take an oath of obedience to man or government, as oaths should only be made to God. So James was tried and convicted of draft-dodging. He served six months in prison, which he says he doesn’t regret, because it led to community service opportunities and then his career as a painter. US
While James’ brother and sister continued for a few more years in their paths of self-destruction and humanistic religion, James was a new man. He settled down in marriage and fatherhood. He became an active member of his congregation and learned his Bible well. His skill at painting took on an artistry that led to some restoration work at
and a steady career. He and his wife made a house into a beautiful and comfortable home. He spent his leisure time in water sports and fishing, and he became a first-class surfer. Hearst Castle
Having only heard of his wild oats-sowing, I never knew about James’ respectable life until a few weeks ago. I was a bit nervous to meet this stranger who’d had a worldly life that included prison (surely for drugs or drug-related crime, I thought). But James was not brain-damaged by drugs, nor did he have the hardness of an ex-convict. He was a gentle, soft-spoken, thoughtful man who had the comfort of others in mind. He took several of us, mostly strangers, on a day-long excursion on the drizzly
coast. Along those miles, we learned his story in bits and pieces, and we bonded not only as relatives or nature enthusiasts, but as children of God. All four of us were of different faith experiences, but we love and serve the same Father, Who loves each of us as much as He loves His Son Jesus. We all learned to love each other that day. California
Jesus prayed that we disciples would be of one mind and heart – His heart! Holding prejudice toward other backgrounds or religions is contrary to that oneness that Jesus desires. Discrimination often means that we have judged ourselves as the elect of God, and others as less worthy (or not worthy) of eternal life.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of
after that time," declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV Israel
We often stop at the first promise about the covenant becoming part of our minds and hearts. But what a blessing we miss if we stop there! The next part of the promise is that “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” because the Lord Himself will reach them and teach them!
It’s easy to be proud of our witnessing and evangelistic efforts and successes. But we only support God’s work. Only God can do God’s work. The Lord will forgive and forget wickedness, and He will lead His children to Him. We are added to the scene as God allows us to share the Shepherd’s joy in bringing in the lost sheep.
One of my pastors connects the following verses: the Great Shepherd has sheep in other shelters that He will bring in Himself (John 10:16); even in heaven, some of the redeemed will ask why Jesus carries scars (Zechariah 13:6), because they’ve not heard the full story of salvation; and what God requires of each of us is “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NIV). Your God, the Word says. There will, indeed, be countless people who are saved in their relationship with and faith in the God who speaks to them and teaches them in His way and His time, but surprisingly, may not use the same methods with others as He did to win us.
Where does that leave us as fellow travelers in the Gospel Commission? It invites us to be useful, willing, humble servants. Servants who will develop relationships with other children of God, and let the love of God live in us without reservation. The possibilities of what God can and will do with lives that we might have given up on, are endless. We share in the celebration that the Lord has brought in all the lost sheep – not 99 percent, but 100 percent – including you and me. Including those “shady” friends, relatives, or neighbors we should know, but haven’t known before!
Get out there and start some conversations. Listen for their heartbeat, their motivation, their questions. Discover how alike you are, not how distant or different. Celebrate your new bonds and relationships. As you share what God has done in your life and theirs, you’ll find that God has been there before you, and He’s in it right now. That is some good news to tell. That is evangelism.