A Lesson Learned

This is one of my personal experiences this fall.

On Thursday, October 13, 2005, God taught me a valuable lesson. As an assistant pastor, I relish every chance I get to preach God’s Word. God gave me that opportunity in a way that I will never forget. Five days earlier a 23 year old girl that I had never met and never will meet tragically died in a car accident. Her boyfriend and she had been fighting at a club earlier that evening. Angry and drunk, her boyfriend was driving about 100 miles an hour down a residential street when he lost control of his car. Like a pinball, the car smashed into several houses and came to rest in the wall of a garage. The intoxicated man climbed out of the car to get help, but it was too late. His young girlfriend had passed into eternity without Christ as her Savior. She left behind three children to cope with the loss of their mother. That night, I received a call from, a woman in our church who was distantly related to the young woman by marriage. They needed someone to do a funeral. I have never liked funerals, especially ones where the family was unsaved, but this one was different. The family and friends of this young woman some would consider “dregs” of society. I must admit that although I agreed to conduct the funeral and gave my pat answer “It’s a good opportunity,” I was not looking forward to it. I met with the family, but had a hard time communicating with the sister of the girl because there is no doubt in my mind that she was high on drugs. I remember selfishly thinking, “Why do these things come up when pastor is out of town?” I prayed for the family, I prayed for the Holy Spirit’s direction, but I still had roots of selfishness that God would challenge me with. A few days before the funeral, the young man who had been my main contact for funeral arrangements asked me if I would meet with his “dad” who is dying and “say a prayer over him.” It seemed strange that he would need to ask his roommate permission for a prayer, but it soon became obvious that his “dad” who was dying was really his real father’s homosexual partner. He was dying of AIDS. I set up a meeting to meet him on Friday, the day following the funeral. On Thursday, during the viewing, the young man came to me and said that his dad was here now and would rather I pray for him now. I agreed and went to meet the man. I have never seen a man with full blown AIDS before. Hobbling into the building was a frail man of fifty who looked like he was ninety. His arm was twisted and deformed, his skin splotched, and he looked like walking dead. I sat down and began sharing the gospel with this man who began to break into tears. He was not able to make much of a response, so I went ahead and prayed. God used a shriveled man faced with his eternity to break me. As I was praying, my own eyes began to brim with tears. I pleaded and begged with God to work on his heart, but God was working on my heart. I no longer saw a “gay” guy; I did not see a disgusting sinner. I saw a lonely man; I saw a pitiful, desperate soul with a need. I thought of how many times I had seen a prostitute on the street and chuckled or walked on the other side. How many times had I cracked a “gay” joke? How many times had I, in my heart, sneered at the wicked? I was not sneering or joking now. Here was a man who was shaking with fear at the thought of his death. Here was a man who had lived his life for himself and his pleasure, but was now crying out for help. I choked back the tears, shook the man’s hand and went out to perform the funeral service that I had agreed to do. As I sat on the stage and looked out at the standing room only auditorium, (there were about 160 people there, but our auditorium seats 100) I saw the attendees in a different light. I saw the need and not the sinner. I saw the pain and not the abuser. God gave me the glorious opportunity to share hope and love with drunkards, homosexuals, lesbians, and drug addicts—the very people Jesus was the friend of. I have no idea whether the homosexual man has accepted Christ. I have no clue as to whether anyone at the funeral repented of their sin and followed Jesus, but I do know that God used the “dregs” of society to change my perception. How often do we as born again Christians, see past the sinner to the need? We preach about the evils of the liberals. We preach about the murderous woman who has the abortion. We are disgusted with the homosexual lifestyle. But do we feel the pain of the one who is searching for satisfaction? Do we weep with the drug addict who doesn’t know how to get out? Do we hug the body ravaged by AIDS and show them the love of Christ? Jesus would have chosen no other place to be than with the “publicans and sinners” that night. God changed my perspective that Thursday night, all praise and glory be to God for the unsearchable riches of His grace. By God’s grace let us all who name the name of Christ see past our own righteousness and privilege and reach out to the “disgusting” of society. Too long have we sat on our wooden benches and watched the “dregs” slip into eternity, while we add one more program to the church schedule. Let us not forget that Christ came to save the sinners.

By God’s Grace

Comments

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous said:

    This experience and others are simply proof that God is at work in your life and ministry. We would like to see God use these times to bring the lost to himself. Sometimes He does. But perhaps the greater work is within us. Certainly that glorifies God as much as a soul saved. Outward results are nice, but the inward reality of God making us what He wants us to be is a testimony to God’s grace.
    Keep on keeping on!
    Tim

    Are you going to announce the birth here and on SharperIron? Just a suggestion. Hope to hear soon.

    December 8, 2005
  2. Anonymous said:

    This experience and others are simply proof that God is at work in your life and ministry. We would like to see God use these times to bring the lost to himself. Sometimes He does. But perhaps the greater work is within us. Certainly that glorifies God as much as a soul saved. Outward results are nice, but the inward reality of God making us what He wants us to be is a testimony to God’s grace.
    Keep on keeping on!
    Tim

    Are you going to announce the birth here and on SharperIron? Just a suggestion. Hope to hear soon.

    December 8, 2005
  3. Jen Ball said:

    Matt, I read what you wrote and want to say thank you! It was incredible to hear another person experience what you went through and have the brokenness in spirit as you did. What an awesome God we serve! There are so many people in need – and all too often we take “life, people” for granted. Thank you for sharing what you did – it was a great encouragement to me!–>

    December 10, 2005

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