“I KNEW it!” she crowed, as if she had found a discarded scrap of paper containing coded instructions from LBJ to Lee Harvey Oswald.
She was, by all appearances, a lovely lady. Tall and slender, dressed beautifully, with a meticulously groomed head of white hair framing a face befitting that woman in your home town who retired from a successful career and then quickly segued into the presidency of the local library board, she sat in the shade on a park bench in the Ahuntsic neighborhood of Montreal, talking with a team of our volunteers.
What nefarious plot had she uncovered? What deep suspicion had she confirmed? That we were “with some RELIGIOUS group.”
We weren’t really even doing evangelism. We had been warned not to be very aggressive or forward. We were passing out wristbands featuring the phrase “J’aime Montréal” (“I love Montreal”) and telling people about the disaster relief work that this organization (with the help of SBC Disaster Relief) had performed in the recent flooding in Ahuntsic. We hadn’t asked her about her beliefs. We hadn’t asked her to attend church. We hadn’t asked her to DO ANYTHING. We tried to give her a wristband that proclaimed a love for her city.
“I think our government can handle the flooding just fine,” she flatly declared. Of course, her government had been DELIGHTED to have the help of J’aime Montréal. City officials stood next to volunteers in TV broadcasts and marveled over the selfless generosity of these Québecois and Americans who had led the charge to respond to their city’s need. But this lady, she wanted nothing to do with it. Our conversation ended shortly thereafter at her prompting.
It’s difficult to find any rational basis for preferring government disaster relief over charitable disaster relief. It’s difficult to imagine why someone would prefer help from people who are required to help them over help from people who want to help them. Even if it weren’t so clearly true that charitable disaster relief responds faster and better than government disaster relief (this is one truth that you actually SHOULD “remember” with Brian Williams), wouldn’t extra help still be…you know…HELP? Why would anyone be ANGRY with people who are trying to help you and your neighbors?
The answer, of course, is spiritual rather than rational. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV) There is a force of darkness at work in our world. It hates Jesus. It makes people hate Jesus without even knowing why, even when it makes no sense.
So, my friends, if you think that tiptoeing around the scandal of the cross or leading with compassion ministries or being more congenial will make the world beat down your door to get Jesus, then I fear that discouragement is in your future. Proclaim the gospel boldly. Minister with compassion, yes, but as an act of discipleship (because you should), not as an act of public relations (because you think THEY think you should). Lostness is bigger than kindness. Kindness loses against lostness. So, above all, pray. You don’t have to be a Calvinist to know that no one ever overcame the irrational blindness of being lost apart from the gracious wooing of the Holy Spirit.