|Image source: Rolf Wallner|
Some of my fellow pastors would have begun to tell this man how much he was "sinning." And, of course, the Bible is pretty clear about certain lifestyles. But I decided instead to get to know M.
I learned that he grew up in a very orthodox church, and even experienced the presence of God at one of their retreats. He is a very spiritually alert person. But this spiritual curiosity led him in a very different direction. This led to him walking away from the Church, and therefore, Christianity altogether.
He also described his relationship with his partner, and how they met. They want to move to a new area and set up a "spiritual guidance" shop. He found a group of "kindred spirits" in this new town and is excited about the move. He even described some of his hopes and dreams, and some of his pain and hurts. While M described a life that I had never even imagined, I got to see his heart and learn a little bit about who he is.
Eventually the conversation turned to what I do. After I explained our desire to start a new church, he told me I was not like any pastor he had met before, which I took as a huge compliment. I got to share a little about the change Jesus made in my life, and how my mission is to please God. I shared about how God loves people -- even people that the religious world has written off. And when he said he has never really read the Bible (because the King James doesn't make sense to him) but expressed an interest, I was able to recommend an "artistic" version of the Bible for him to read.
My point is this... if we write off people because of their current lifestyle or beliefs, we shut the door to God being able to use us to speak into their lives. I find it interesting that the very people who didn't fit in with a religious worldview ("sinners") were the very ones that seemed to love hanging out with Jesus. And Jesus defended them to the religious elite. (see Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 15) And I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with M.
We need to ask God to send more "sinners" into our path. And that He would give us wisdom in our dealings with them. After all, it's the kindness of God that leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4) We cannot afford to be so "spiritual" that we avoid relationships with people that are in desperate need of God. After all, haven't we, too, been brought into a relationship with God by His mercy and grace?
This experience reinforced my belief that if you invest in a relationship with someone, you earn the right to speak into their life. Have you ever had any similar experiences?