Gospel of the Trenches
September 13 05
Imagine being a rescue worker helping in the Gulf Coast area. You come across a stranded family who can't get out of their house. You see that there is a fire burning next door and it is spreading to the home of this family. You know that this family does not know about the fire. You also know that this family wants to stay put. They do not want to leave their home and have elected to stay there until the flood waters recede. But there's that fire next door that you see but has so far not been seen by this family. You see the fire spreading, but they only see their own comfort as they refuse to uproot themselves from their home.
Would you consider leaving them "in the dark" about the impending fire? After all, you don't want to force these life-long New Orleanians from their family home. You certainly don't want to alarm them with the news of the fire, either, because you know that they're already stressed with the flooding. So, you decide to row away in your boat. Let them enjoy their peace and quiet. Don't upset them with the news of the fire.
That all sounds rather preposterous, don't you think? I don't know of anyone who would be in a position to alert this family of the fire about to overtake their home who would then simply leave without saying a word. Certainly, you would "sound the alarm." You are conscious of the fact that this family had decided to ride out the hurricane. You know that, so far, it would seem they have fared well. But now you know that they are in harm's way. You know that the fire is nearing. You would do whatever it takes to alert them of the danger and get them to safety. You would risk offending them in order to spare them a great tragedy.
Now imagine you have this family in a shelter. You brought them to a church that is housing evacuees. The church is doing a great job of feeding them and meeting their other comfort needs. The church is doing what Christ commanded of them: love God and love people. Or are they?
Certainly, there are many churches that are housing evacuees and are helping in numerous ways. We can certainly be filled with joy as we see thousands of hurricane victims getting some of the help they so desperately need. In fact, most of these churches are doing a better job than other organizations or the government and that's the way it should be. But, according to a recent New York Times article, many Christians are refusing to share the Gospel with these displaced families.
Jim Burton is the director of volunteer mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention's domestic missions board. Burton has directed Southern Baptist workers to give people a Bible and say a prayer with them, but not to share the Gospel. "The bottom line is, we're Christian unapologetically and we're not ashamed of that," Burton said. "But we take a very low key approach because this is a highly sensitive situation."
Pastor Rick Warren just preached a similar message to 250 pastors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The thought is that the Church needs to step up and meet the physical needs of hurting people. That much I wholeheartedly agree with, but so many church leaders are backing away from the Gospel for fear that the hurting people may be offended. How tragic.
I understand Mr. Burton's apprehension. No one wants to be seen as taking advantage of someone else's pain. However, if we truly love God and love people, we can share the Gospel without neglecting evacuees' physical needs. Have we fallen for the lies of Satan? Do we really believe that someone's temporary comfort is more important than his or her eternal destiny? Do we really think that evacuees will be offended if we share God's love with them? Satan does not care if people get a cold drink of water or a hot meal or a roof over their head. What he does care about is their eternal destiny. Did you catch that? The enemy only cares about his bottom line: How many souls can he steal from God? Satan only cares about your eternal destiny. He will do whatever it takes to make sure you end up in hell. God cares far more for your eternal destiny than for your earthly comfort. The battle is not over the blessings we can have on earth but the destination of our souls.
Be a true rescue worker. You see the fire that will destroy people. Alert them. They may be offended, but can you stand before God and not be ashamed when He asks you why you threw away so many opportunities to share the Gospel? Can you explain to Him that you were afraid of making people uncomfortable? You would certainly tell that family that a fire is overtaking their home and that they must evacuate. So, why not tell them that the fire will overtake their lives for all eternity and you know the Way of escape?