Are you willing to trust someone—either in the church, in your community, or yes, even on the Internet—whom you feel may hurt you in some emotional (maybe even physical) way?
Now our family doesn’t do this all the time, but when you’re a missionary, you develop what I think is a God-given nudge to reach out to certain people. And you step out and take the risk. It’s not something that I would suggest everyone do, unless you’re also willing to absorb what may turn out to be a painful situation, learn something from it, and move on. And obviously, I don’t mean purposely putting yourself in harm’s way.
Our family does it, because Jesus is the perfect example of someone who took the biggest risks of loving others and because we don’t want to look back and say, “What if?” To be honest, we have been burnt a couple of times (who hasn’t?), but, we’re very grateful to God for his mercy in that the good far outweighs the bad.
While on the mission field in Europe, we met this chap at the gym. Let’s face it, the self-righteous would do everything they could to avoid him. His moral lifestyle is antithetical to everything they hold close to their heart. Anyway, knowing he would benefit from genuine Christian friendship, we invited him to a church holiday event at one of our member’s homes. We hoped he’d be among all these wonderful examples of Christian faith. We explained (warned!) it was a church event so didn’t think he would show up.
But he did.
And so did a supreme spiritual woman of our church. You can guess what happened! Our “heathen” friend displayed more Christian love than the pious woman.
Years later, this woman still can’t let go of how this man was invited to a church event. And even though we and this “saint” have long since moved on, we still hear about how upset she is. When we think about it, ironically, it was accepting her as a sister in Christ that turned out to be more of a risk than befriending our non-Christian friend.
Easter is a time, I believe, for Christians to recapture a passion to show and share the love of Jesus with all those around us. Simultaneously, I believe Easter is a time for those who don’t profess to follow Christ to ask, “Where does my hope lie? If I were to bank my life on something, what would it be?” And, let me reiterate, those around us want to hear about how faith changes everything.
Through these risky experiences, we’ve made some fantastic lifelong friends (for example, our friend in Europe and through him many others), learned a lot about people, ourselves…and, personally, I have even had to face up to the self-righteousness and judgmentalism that I always thought was a part of someone else’s character, not mine. I’ve developed compassion, humility, and sympathy…and have dropped saying, “You should have known better, how could you be such an idiot?”
But what if things don’t work out, you took the risk and love turns to hate, the person you thought was your friend turns out to be an enemy and you have no clue as to why? I’ve seen that happen, too. Just remember—don’t try to get back at them or do anything unChristlike. If it’s a serious case of abuse, then yes, they need to be brought to accountability, but, otherwise, keep the door to friendship open. Maybe there will come a time when God will bring you together again. Whatever you do, don’t harbour bitterness and resentment. That only hurts you.
So this Easter, are you willing to love someone enough to invite them (not badger them) to church? Are you willing to love someone enough this Easter to reach out and, through Christ’s redeeming power, heal a broken relationship?