Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Time for Urgency

It is 2:09am on Tuesday morning. About 30 minutes ago I had written a fairly lengthy post for the blog, but I lost it because the stupid internet connection died. Figures, right? Why am I up so early and unable to fall back to sleep? At 1:00am I was awakened by my wife. She came in to tell me that our friend, Barry, had died. He had been suffering for a while, terribly in the past two years, with lymphedema and hepatitis. I can't remember his exact age right now, but I know he was only in his 50's.

It was just two weeks ago that we last saw him. I don't think we all saw him together as a family since we moved back in February. The kids were so excited to see him, though he looked absolutely awful. We talked about all kinds of stuff, and nothing in particular. We talked about Italian food and the new Italian restaurant. He was so excited to hear about it that he wanted take-out right then, at 9:00pm! The worst thing, looking back, was how elated my 5-year-old daught was to see him. When we left, she skipped out the front door saying, "Bye, Barry! Get better soooooon!"

When my wife told me of his death, a bunch of things went through my mind. The first major thing was an image of him dying and then "waking up" to torment. Barry was not a believer in Jesus Christ, and, as we know, it is a sad fact that everyone outside of Christ receives justice for their sins from our Holy God. After we visited him two weeks ago, my wife and I discussed buying him a book that would touch upon some of his objections to Christ and would present Christ to him. I know Barry and my wife had some talks about God, Christ, and religion in the past, but we knew his time was coming soon. Did we end up doing it? No. We talked about it, considered different books. I began writing up a little something for him to read that I never finished. I even bought one book but then decided it wouldn't be ideal -so we sat on it. As great as that book is, I think I am going to keep it around as a reminder of this.

I know I cannot blame myself for his hard-heartedness toward God, something we all have prior to God's converting us and placing within us a heart of flesh. I did not make him feel the way he felt toward God. I am not responsible for any of it. But we were probably the only lights for truth in his entire life in this past few years. I was responsible for being a light to him, but I was scarcely a spark. I know God is absolutely sovereign over all things, including salvation, but I know this does not release me from my responsibilities. I am angry with myself.

I am not going to harp on this too much, since I already did in my previous post that was lost. I am writing this because I know other Christians probably have the same problem I have. Perhaps we are too comfortable in our comfortable little lives to see the urgency we should have for souls. Perhaps we have it too good, and because of this we have become dull. We are zealous in some parts, but not where it really counts. We contend for the truth of God, but we do not proclaim it to the lost. It is too easy for us to slide into neglect, into self, into our own little worlds. That is what is more frustrating. You might think this would change me, and for a time it probably will, but I know that the wickedness of my heart will slowly seduce me back, unwittingly even, into the comfortable dullness of sloth.

If I could say something to Barry right now it would probably go like this:

Barry, I am sorry. I know it is not my fault that you stand condemned, for they are your sins and your sins alone. But I am sorry that I was never a light to you in darkness when I should have been. I am sorry that I was too unconcerned to boldly proclaim the message of Christ and His cross to you. I am sorry that I did not solemnly warn you. I am sorry that I did not do all that I could -even pleading with you in the name of Christ- that perhaps the Spirit of God would have quickened your darkened heart to life.

I can't help thinking... who is next? Do my parents have to die in unbelief with me sitting here, talking to them almost daily, not saying barely a word of warning to them, for me to wake up out of my slothful, easy slumber? Can I really say I have earnestly sought to bring glory to God and love others by proclaiming to them the truth of Jesus Christ? I wish, in this case in particular, that I could say that.

I pray for myself and for others that we would be vigilant, bold, wise, gentle, truthful, and God-honoring in our evangelism -and a bit more urgent. I hope it does not take a death to provoke us to rethink things. There is something to be said for those Christians who live in countries where the Gospel it persecuted and Christians' lives are threatened and lost -seems to be like the apostles in some ways. It is not a rule, of course, but I know there is more urgency and seriousness in proclaiming Christ among people such as these who risk liberty and life to do so. I wish we were all like that. In America, on the other hand, we have immense freedom to speak the Gospel, but for many of us it is a reason for either laziness or abuse. Why are we not more serious about proclaiming the Gospel? It is not to push a human agenda like so much of the junk out there. It is for God's glory, ultimately, and because we care for our neighbors -sometimes literally our neighbors.

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