One of the saddest things in the world to watch is a plant that springs up with life and joy, only to wither and die before your eyes. One moment there is hope; the next — death. My heart is heavy as I think about someone I dearly love. She seemed to be taking steps toward a new life in Christ, and then abruptly turned back to the world.
You see, I don’t live near her, and I knew that she did not have any Christian friends or a church to support and help her grow. So I called three different churches in her area in a somewhat desperate attempt to find someone who would care.
At the first church, I talked to the associate pastor. I told him about the situation, and he actually asked me what I wanted him to do. Say what??? What do I want you to do??? I want you to go visit my friend. I want you to introduce some Christian people to her. I want you to personally invite her to your church. I want you to reach out and care about her salvation!
The second church I called seemed more promising. I told the two people I talked to there about the first church. They both said that was appalling. I felt encouraged. This was a very large church, with lots of programs… maybe they would reach out! But when the rubber met the road, they could send no one to meet her… they could send no one to give her a ride to church… they were apparently much too busy taking care of all those believers already gathered there to do… well… anything.*
The third church I called was very small and located extremely close to her. The best I could get out of them is that they would call and leave a message on her phone inviting her to come to a ladies Christmas party.
One night, this friend called me. She was sobbing uncontrollably, “If I follow God I’m going to lose all my friends, and I’m already so lonely!” The anguish in her voice stuck in my chest like a rusty knife and CUT MY HEART OUT!
This little plant sprang up with joy. I did all I could, from hundreds of miles away, to give it good roots. I mailed wonderful Biblical materials, sermons, books, a study Bible… I even Skyped with her, trying as hard as I could to give her a foundation by reading the Bible with her. But in the end, I watched the plant begin to wilt. It had no deep roots — and so it withered and died.
“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” ~ Matthew 13:20-21
The churches in her area couldn’t be bothered to expend time, effort, and energy to reach out to someone who is lost, desperately lonely, and sad to the marrow of her bones.
Am I bitter** toward those churches?
Yes, honestly, I am.
Now for the harder question: Would I have behaved any differently? If someone contacted me about a loved one that they had been sharing the gospel with, would I sit on my hands and find reasons to never go visit that person? I hope to God not. I hope to God that I would be stirred in my spirit to be active in fulfilling the Greatest Commission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20
One final note… Do I know that salvation belongs to the Lord? Am I aware that His will is never thwarted and that ALL whom He calls will come to Him? Do I know that God will save this loved one if He chooses to save her — despite the acts of any number of human beings — including these churches. Yes. I am pointedly and powerfully aware of this fact. Salvation–from start to finish–is a work of the Lord.
Knowing all that, do I still hold bitterness** toward those churches?
I can hardly help it… yes I do.
* After this post went live, I was contacted by one of the people from this church. It seems that she did made attempts to make contact with my loved one through Facebook and has been keeping her in prayer. That is something I am grateful for, and I wanted to make sure it was mentioned.
**As for my bitterness, it has been pointed out to me by one friend that these feelings might be better classified as “grief.” But I’m not sure. It certainly feels bitter. If this is sin, then please pray that the Lord would reveal that to me and help me be rid of it.