::Warning: this is a LOT of words and if you don’t like Jesus, you probs will think it’s boring. If you DO like Jesus or even think he’s interesting, you might find some encouragement within::
Tonight was the second night in a row that a non christian has sat down next to me and asked me to explain the Gospel.
Let me back up.
Last night I had to leave missional community training early. My friend and co LTG member asked me to join her on her formerly loan-ranger mission field… a karaoke league (yes, they have leagues). I, until this moment, HATED even the idea of karaoke, but we’ve been taught that we need to be IN COMMUNITY in mission, so I signed up. I even found myself getting excited about it. Since we learned just before I left that to be missional we need to both DEMONSTRATE and DECLARE, that was my prayer as I drove to Ego’s bar. “Dear God, please, somehow, in a bar, while people are singing, give me the chance and ability to demonstrate and declare. And …please don’t let it be awkward.” Well, friends, it WAS awkward. My friend wasn’t there yet, so I tried to make friends with a group of girls… Rebuffed! I eventually met my “team,” and sat there thinking “I am so out of my league, here. The only things I know how to do at a bar are get hit on, or avoid eye contact so I don’t get hit on.” Finally, my friend arrives and I think that maybe, i’ll make it through this night.
I’m not sure how much later, my friend introduces me to a man who was not unkind man, just the type you meet and think that people aren’t probably very kind to him. A bit awkward, probably more intelligent than those around him. So, less relateable than the homeboy next to me chugging a brewsky. I get it. But my friend, H, knew him and knew that he was studying counseling so she introduced him to me. What happened next I can take ZERO credit for. Because even though I work at a church, a pretty easy gimme into talking about the gospel, i was only telling people I was a student that night. Because all I wanted to do was NOT get hit (really, something I should elaborate on later) on or feel awkward, and because I WAS SCARED ABOUT SINGING KARAOKE. Through all of this, God was willing to show that He had bigger plans. The man asked me what kind of counseling I want to do.
I said Gospel counseling.
He asked what that was.
And spent the next 45 minutes talking to me about God, the Bible, the Gospels, “church history” (what he knew….which was fuzzy). Since I’ve had the benefit of amazing theology, Religious Studies in college, and GT classes, I had a lot to contribute to the converstaion. He was impressed at hearing what The Austin Stone is doing in the city, and asked about our “bible studies.” I told him I’d bring him a church history book next week. And I will.
A man just sat down next to me and asked me to explain the Gospel. That’s not the kind of thing that happens every day. I mean, sure, we’d JUST prayed that God would change our hearts and cause us to be his ambassadors in the city, but c’mon. Fluke, right? No, y’all, we know better than that.
Then today, i was out at the pool reading Stetzer and Nation’s Compelled By Love. Which, for the two chapters I got done, is a great read. A reminder that we are called to SACRIFICIAL love. Which is the ONLY reason I got myself up from the pool and ready for dinner with my friend, M. (Greater love has no man than this: that (s)he would leave the sunshine by the pool for dinner with her friend.;) M and I know each other from undergrad and we’ve hung out exactly one time in my whole life: when he wanted to hang so I invited him to church. I did the worst job ever on following up with that, but M is gracious, and God is really really loving and really really loves M and will fight even the selfish tendancies in my own stubborn heart to show M that love. We got to Chuy’s and, for a reason I really don’t know, M asked, “So you haven’t always been religious, right?” That one comment turned into me sharing my testimony and sharing the Gospel.
M said he loved God, but he couldn’t be a Christian, could he? Because he’s gay.
I told him I believe everything the Bible says, and the Bible says homosexuality, along with every other sin, is wrong. But it also tells us that we are saved or damned based on one thing, and one thing alone, the atonement of Christ on our behalf. I had my bible with me and we looked at Ephesians 2, and lots of other passages I can’t even remember at this moment. I shared with him and showed him (Thank the Sweet Lord that I decided to bring my chapstick, cell phone, wallet, AND my Bible to dinner. I don’t even remember making that decision.) that the giants of the Bible were all bums who God used because HE LOVED THEM, not because they were so great.
I said, “Yes, homosexuality is a sin. But you’re asking the wrong question. People don’t go to hell for being gay. The thing that makes the difference, that says if you get to be with God for eternity, is if his grace has caused your heart to change, to love him, to have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for you. Sins are attoned for by Christs’ blood, not our actions.”
We talked so long and so much about God and the Gospel that they called our names, and we didn’t hear. Many minutes later a hostess asked me “aren’t you Ritz?” “yes.” “We’ve been calling you forever. A whole page of people after you has already gotten seated.” They took us to a table, but God wasn’t done yet.
We talked about the Spirit leading and changing us, about God’s way being best because He is God and perfect.
“But how do you choose the parts of the Bible to believe?!”
“I believe it all.”
“The parts about slavery?” then we talked about how God told his people to be good to their slaves, how it was differnt then, and often kinder (like a way to get out of debt) and not at all what we think of today. We talked about cultural context and reading historical works. We talked about how Jesus came to break the chains of bondage. We talked about the place of Godly principals, even in secular practices.
“And about women being submissive?” So we opened to Ephesians 5 and talked about how men are called to love and lead, and the beauty of the roles of Christ and the church played out in real life. How that is supposed to show people part of God’s story. M agreed that if he ever saw a couple like that, he’d think something was different about them.
After dinner, we went to the Match Maker Band event at the St John site. There, M got to really see the community apologetic. He saw people coming together to serve each other, to support. I showed him the pictures of Kibera (a slum in Africa where our church sends teams to go do mission work) and shared about what people are doing in Reagan (a high school where we do the same). I stopped at the picture of N (a high schooler from Reagan) and told him about T (the youth minister) having him living with him for a while when he needed a place to be. Suddenly these friends I’ve known so long seemed so much more remarkable, seeing them from M’s eyes. I even shared that I am a fundraising intern and that my friends send in checks every month that pay for my salary. He was floored. What could compel people to give $10, $20, $100, $250, EVERY MONTH?! Not me, certainly. Just the Gospel, just the love of Christ that calls us to love others.
“This is what it’s supposed to look like. This is how the body is supposed to work. This is how we are supposed to be known, as Christians, by our love.”
“I don’t have any friends like that,” he said. “I couldn’t get anyone to help me move. My one friend, if I ask her for a ride, her first question isn’t where I need to go but if I have money to pay for gas.”
“I have the most amazing friends. But it’s not because I’m great, it’s because Jesus is, and he loves them, and that changes people. I know the most generous and loving people, and that has changed me. And God’s love is supposed to flow out like that.”
After we got back to my apartment to part ways, I sent him home with Redeeming Love, just to read a story of how it’s not the sin that mattered, it’s the persistent love of the Lord. He wants to start reading the Bible together and we’re going to hang out again next week.
At karaoke. :)