If you came home from your next doctor’s visit with the news that you had only a limited amount of time left in this life, what would you make sure people around you knew? Other than wrapping up financial affairs, what would you put your energy into communicating to family, friends and acquaintances?
A number of years ago, I had a friend who came to face that reality in his life. As a teenager in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I had gotten to know Joe King when First Baptist brought him in to do a capital funds campaign for our hundred-plus year old but growing church that desperately needed more space. Though older than most of our parents and there to do “adult stuff,” Joe routinely hung out with us teenagers. That made an impression on me. What made a deeper impression on me was Joe’s joyful love of Jesus.
Years later in southern California, it was a great delight to find that John, our sons, and I were in the same region he was serving as an area minister… (and where we would get to know Charles Revis!) Though we eventually moved back to the northwest, we kept in touch with Joe and Marietta, seeing them occasionally at various gatherings. It was a terrible blow to hear Joe’s cancer had returned, and medical options had been exhausted. When I heard the news, I called him. Joe answered with his usual joy. He sounded like Joe, not like a dying person. He was honest the short time he had. But he was also quick to say he knew exactly what he wanted to do with that time: “I am going to make sure I tell every single person I talk with that Jesus loves them.” That was a good idea, I said. We talked a bit more. When it was time to say good-bye, Joe said,
“I need you to know something important.”
“Okay, Joe, what’s that?”
“Jesus loves you.”
A month or two later, I was able to talk to Joe again. His voice was weaker but the joy was still there. Joe said the same thing to me at the end of our visit: “Don’t forget: Jesus loves you.”
A simple statement. And yet it is one of the most important statements in the world. So why does that seem so, well … hard, … so difficult for us to communicate with others?
Offering Jesus is hard NOT because we can’t or don’t know how to. There are a lot of very good books and pamphlets available to help us if we don’t. They are easy reads. For example, 8 to 15: The World is Smaller than You Think by Tom Mercer or Organic Outreach for Everyday People by Kevin Harney are two excellent resources if you feel you need more help in HOW do offer Jesus to the people in your life. With these kinds of helps, we learn we can and we are able to offer Jesus to others.
Offering Jesus is hard NOT because we don’t think we should. Most of us know we should tell other people about Jesus. We should tell invite people to meet Jesus because if they don’t, they’ll spend forever without God. We should “go and make disciples” because Jesus told us to (Matt. 28:19-20). But believing we should doesn’t seem to get us very far. Guilt is never much of a motivating factor.
We can and we should… but where is the urgency about inviting people to know Jesus? Perhaps we believe (deep down) everyone will get to heaven in the end. If we believe everyone goes to heaven, then why bother with any of the church stuff – sermons, teaching, Bible-study, living like Jesus…?
No. Logically and spiritually the idea that everyone eventually gets to heaven makes no sense. If it is true that Jesus is the Son of God, born of human flesh, lived, died and resurrected to make possible our reconciliation to God, then it must be true for everyone. Or it is not true for anyone.
Without a doubt, those statements can raise all the theological discussions that people both learned and spiritually wise have probed for centuries. They are worth consideration, if for no other reason that they help us to understand more clearly what we say we believe. But for me, the issue of “we can (know how to) and should but don’t” share Jesus raises a very different question:
Do we WANT to share Jesus with others?
Perhaps offering Jesus is hard because we DON’T WANT TO. We usually find time and energy for the things we really want. If we sharing with people that Jesus loves them, perhaps it has to do with our priorities.
If honest reflection brings the realization, “I guess I really don’t want to,” the next question is, “how can I want to?” We’ve already noted guilt doesn’t get us there. The only way I know to address a lack of desire is to admit it – and repent of it. If we ask for the desire to share Jesus, Jesus will give us that desire. Asking to “want to” is in line with what God already wants. For our friend Joe, it was always a priority. At the end of his life, it became THE priority.
And now I need you to know something very important:
Jesus loves you!