Often, God uses children to teach you an important lesson. Last night I was reading the Bible with my daughters before bed. We were looking at 1 Samuel 8, where Israel asks for a king “so that they can be like all the nations around them” (1 Sam 8:20). It’s a tragic moment in history.
Israel, who was called by God to be set apart from the nations, so that the nations might come to know God (Exodus 19:4-6). Israel, who was called by God to be live differently, causing the surrounding nations to be amazed at how good God is (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). That same Israel who was called to be distinct from the nations, was now wanting instead to be just like the nations. To fit in.
It’s a tragic story, and one that has big implications for us today as God’s people. I tried to help my daughters (aged 3 and 5) see the connection.
“That’s a bit like us today, isn’t it girls? We’re called to be different so that we can bless others, aren’t we?” They seemed to be struggling to understand (understandably!), so I tried to make it a bit more concrete. I turned to my oldest daughter, who goes to kindie and has just turned 5: “Are we a bit different from our friends at kindie, darling? Do your friends know Jesus like you do? Do they love Jesus too?”
Immediately her face turned, and she started sobbing. My wife and I were startled at first, and confused. Why was she so upset? Was she being bullied at school because she’s a Christian? I asked her what was wrong, but she was too upset to get a word out.
It’s so sad that my friends don’t know Jesus! I want them to know Jesus! Mum, why didn’t we tell them about Jesus at my birthday party?
I comforted her while she continued to cry, until after about a minute, she blurted out through tears: “It’s so sad that my friends don’t know Jesus! I want them to know Jesus! Mum, why didn’t we tell them about Jesus at my birthday party? [her 5th birthday party was last week]. When can we tell them about Jesus so they can know him too?”
Even while she spoke, hot tears ran down her face.
Was she overreacting? At one level it might seem like it. We all have friends who don’t know Jesus, but the thought of it doesn’t bring us to tears. It feels normal that many people we know don’t know Jesus. We’re used to it. And if you’re anything like me, we’re rarely bothered by it.
But of course, it’s not my daughter’s reaction that is out of place—it’s mine.
I’ve become desensitised to the tragedy of people not knowing Jesus. I’ve become desensitised to the magnitude of what it means for someone to reject Jesus and live this life without him. And to face eternity without him.
Because, of course, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Bible is clear that those who don’t know Jesus will receive perfect justice for the way they have lived. They’ll receive justice for all the wrongs they have committed against other people, and justice for all the wrongs they have committed against God. And while we might be naïvely optimistic about our own goodness, the Bible is not. Jesus says that even the best of us are evil (Matthew 7:11), that we fall short of God’s loving standard (Matthew 5:43-48), and that our rebellion against God puts us in danger of hell (Matthew 5:29-30).
Now of course, my 5-year-old doesn’t grasp all of that. But intuitively, she senses how great a tragedy it is that her friends don’t know Jesus. She cares about them, so she wants them to know Jesus like she does.
A Wake-Up Call
This was a big wake-up call for me. It was a reminder how uncaring I can be about the eternal fate of the people around me. How little it bothers me that people I know are on the path to facing an eternity without Jesus.
I’ve done a lot of evangelism training this year in campus ministry, and as I’ve reflected on my own experience and that of the students I’m training, I’ve realised that perhaps the biggest obstacle to Christians being active evangelists is not lack of methods, but lack of desire.
It’s great to be trained and equipped with skills and methods for evangelism, but even with all the training in the world, if I don’t really want to evangelise, I won’t do it. I won’t take advantage of the opportunities God gives me. I won’t try to make opportunities to share about Jesus. I’ll be passive, even reluctant, to talk about my faith.
But if someone has a strong desire to evangelise, if they want their friends to know Jesus and they’re earnest and prayerful and just long for those around them to know Jesus, they’ll be a much more effective witness, even without great training and skills. If I had to choose, I’d take an untrained evangelist who is passionate and earnest any day of the week!
Which brings me back to my 5-year-old.
I have grown comfortable with the fact that people around me don’t know Jesus. She hasn’t.
I’ve become desensitised to the eternal fate of those around me. She hasn’t.
She has a deep care for those around her, and desperately wants them to know Jesus. Too often, if I’m honest, I don’t.
It was a reminder for me to pray that God would help me to see people as he does. As people who are dearly loved, immeasurably valuable, and whose eternal destiny hangs in the balance. C.S. Lewis once famously said:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
“Lord, please soften my heart to care more about the eternal destiny of those around me. Give me the heart of my 5-year-old, to care more deeply about those who don’t yet know Jesus.”
First published at thebensmartblog.com