Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who Accepts Who?

The title of tomorrow's scripture based thought in the family devotion book Wake Up to Joy is "Accepting the Lord." I was talking with someone yesterday about my strategy, as a pastor, as I minister to people who are suffering or near death. Many times I work with people who may or may not have "accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior" in a clear, unambiguous way. What is my responsibility?

I've always believe that the most important duty is always to proclaim good news, that is, that Jesus accepts sinners. I hope and pray that people will accept Jesus, but I'm concerned about pushing for a "decision." Sometimes I think pushing for that can turn good news into a hurdle to be jumped. "Just pray these words," we might say "and you'll be saved." Doesn't that somehow make Jesus' love too dependent on the psychological condition of a suffering soul? Or on a witnessing technique?

When I visit with people who are suffering, nor near death, I hold out, in as clear a way as I can, the good news that Jesus loves them. I do my best to tell them that Jesus accepts sinners, that Jesus gave his life for them and he loves them no matter what. I try to make that love as unconditional as possible so my suffering brothers and sisters won't turn it down. I offer to pray with them and for them. But I try not to make salvation into a sale.

The actual devotion from the Advent booklet warns us against criticizing various strategies of bringing salvation. It begins with a prayer that says "help us to accept you as our Savior," which is wonderful, but then it goes on to quote Matthew 11:16-19. In this part of Matthew's gospel Jesus is teaching about people who scoff at Jesus' love no matter what strategy is used--John the Baptist's sternness or Jesus' acceptance. Some, it seems are so hardened that even Jesus himself can't melt their hearts.

So what I do is try to show love, and, at the same time, I am never shy about speaking Jesus' name, telling about his love. I can't guarantee any kind of "success," and I'm not going to use "techniques" in order to drag a one time decision out of people who are trapped in their suffering. Maybe I should be more pushy. I ask you to pray for me and share your feelings on this.

What I focus on is speaking Jesus' name and telling of his amazing grace. Because he's the only one who can save. Jesus accepts and saves me and every sinner. I want people to know that so they can quietly, or loudly, from a broken heart, cry out to him for help. Our job as believers, who have been given the gift of faith is, I think, mostly to let people know he is near.

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