We all have a story.
We all have a past that is full of joy, hurt, sin, triumph, and brokenness. Our stories define who we are today, they shape our personalities and our characters, and they guide us down different paths. I’ve had the privilege of listening to a lot of stories this year. (It’s one of the perks of the job.) Some bold and glorious, and some destructive and heartbreaking. I’ve also had the privilege of sharing my own story – filled with it’s own up’s and down’s.
This year I met a girl in South Africa who watched her mom commit suicide when she was a toddler, who has scars all over of her arms from the deep cuts of razor blades, and even more scars on her heart from years of selling her body in prostitution.
This year I met a man on an airplane who’s wife lost one of her twin boys during a difficult pregnancy, and who’s surviving son (two years old now) was born 23 weeks premature with cerebral palsy. He also told me that two of his greatest fears are his 4 year-old son getting ahold of pornography and him failing as a father.
This year I met a teenager from a rural village who was raped multiple times by her father, and who was told by her mother to never speak a word of it to anyone, ever.
This year I met a predator who lied, manipulated, and took advantage of a vulnerable woman right in front of my eyes… and claimed to be a Christian.
Every single one of these people have a story to tell, every single one of them matter, and every single one of them are desperately in need of Jesus.
Some would say, “Sam here is perfect proof that God doesn’t exist.” But I would say… here is proof that evil exists, proof that we live in a broken world marred by sin, proof that hurt people hurt people, and proof that the world’s way of living doesn’t work.
Ultimately, these stories are my proof that we all desperately need Jesus.
The Lord is constantly teaching me about love – more importantly His love. He’s also been teaching me about the importance of freedom. And what I’ve come to find is that you can’t have one without the other. Freedom and love go hand-in-hand. In this world we have the freedom to love and the freedom to choose, and sometimes, because we are imperfect beings with the God-given gift of free will – we choose wrong. Sometimes we steal, we lust, we hate, and we envy. Sometimes we ignore, we hurt, we lie, and we boast. And yet despite all of these things, God has never given up on us. He has yet to throw in the towel and walk away, and I can tell you now, that He never will.
His patience has never grown thin, His love has never been revoked, and His grace has never run out. And even when nothing makes sense (when the cancer doesn’t go away, when the abuse happens, when the fire destroys, when the child dies), He is still good.
Instead of blaming Him for the pain and the hurt and the evil, why don’t we try trusting Him through the pain and the hurt and the evil? Why don’t we take responsibility for the wrongs in the world (and for our brothers and sisters who live in it with us) by following in His footsteps instead of selfishly trying to walk in a different direction? Instead of complaining about the problems, why don’t we try to become a part of the solution?
After hearing so many stories, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world doesn’t need more religious people. The world needs more disciples – people who actually do what Jesus did, who walk as He walked, and who love as He continues to love. If we can be people who look and act and breathe and think like Jesus, fear will be cast away, brokenness will be healed, and sin will be covered. If we can be people who are humble, generous, and quick to repent – lives will be saved. If we can be people who aren’t afraid to be raw and unfiltered, and people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty – the church will start to look like a real church.
Religion never saved anyone.
But Jesus can save anyone.
The only person who is too broken or too beat up for Jesus to heal and mend is the person who doesn’t think they need any healing or mending.
I am no better than the prostitute, and I am no worse off than the pastor. And I can say with completely honesty that I am desperate for Jesus, every second of ever day. And if that is true for me, then it’s true for you, and that puts all of us on an equal playing field where no one is better or more deserving of love than anyone else. No one is too hurt to be healed, and no one is too wrong to be forgiven. When we realize that truth, we can start to behave like uniquely valuable parts of one body, where everyone learns to function in their own beautifully imperfect way – together as a whole.
The more we see each other (and ourselves) the way Jesus sees us, the freer we will be to love each other without condition or exception.
If the orphan can see themselves as acceptable, the prisoner as redeemable, the homeless as significant, and the porn star as precious – then miracles will start to happen, and the world will begin to recognize that we are disciples because of the love of Christ that shines so brightly through us.