Yesterday, while I was at work, Michelle, my youngest, stormed into the house. “I have bad news,” she said. “The people over there aren’t even Christians.”
She had been playing with the new neighbor kids and she looked upset and frustrated as only an eight year old can. “They can’t go to hell,” she said. “I’m going to tell them about Jesus.” And with that she grabbed her NIV Discoverer’s Bible and put it under her arm and marched out.
Vero, my wife, turned to Melanie, our eleven year old, and said, “Do you think she realizes that her Bible is in English?” We live in Argentina and the neighbors, of course, speak Spanish.
When I heard about it the next day, I was full of curiosity. “What happened?” I asked my wife but she didn’t know. Maybe twenty minutes later she saw Michelle playing in the pool with the neighbor kids as if nothing had happened.
I would have given my right arm to be a fly on the wall when she walked into the neighbor’s house to tell them about Jesus. Was she going to talk to the kids or to the parents? I didn’t know but I bet God was wearing one of his biggest smiles that day.
I can’t help but contrast this eight year old spiritual fervor with what is happening at our church. I was asked to preach one Sunday and afterwards one of the older members of the church, let’s call him Jeff, approached me and told me that the sermon was too long and that I talked too much about Jesus.
“But Jeff,” I said, “I’m supposed to talk about Jesus.”
“You keep saying that he’s the only way to heaven and I can’t believe that.” Jeff was adamant but polite. He was a nice old man.
Jeff happens to like Buddhism and every once in a while he hands out some typewritten sheets with updates about the Dali Lama or the latest conference on Buddhism and Western Civilization. I felt that it was time to clarify things with Jeff so I put my hand on his shoulder and looked him straight in the eye and said, “Jeff, if you do not believe that Jesus is the only way to be saved, and if you do not accept God´s only provision for your sin in the cross, you are not a Christian.” It was said in love and Jeff knew it. We had talked before but I had never spoken so directly.
Jeff didn’t say anything so I continued.
“You need to know that, by your own confession, you are not a Christian and I don’t want you to finish out your life thinking that you are right with God when you’re not. This is too important.”
He just smiled but I think he was shocked. No one had ever talked to him that way. He had been a member of the church for more than twenty years. He was already an old man and set in his ways and now this young upstart had the gall to tell him that he wasn’t even a Christian.
Apparently I was in trouble. I just didn’t know it yet.
I invited him to get together with me, or the Pastor, to talk about it in more detail and he told me that he would let me know. The next day I mentioned it to the Pastor, almost in passing, just so that he could follow it up if the opportunity arose. He didn’t make a big deal about it at the time, and we prayed together for Jeff. But it wasn’t long before it became a Board issue and I was officially told to mind my own business and not play God.
A month or so later, I was talking to another long term member of the church, a pillar of the community and a former Board Member for many years. It was just a comment but it took my breath away because of who was saying it. We were at a gospel choir concert in our church and for some reason this member and I were talking about Jesus as a historical figure. He said that he wasn’t all that interested in whether Jesus died and rose again, just that he was a great example to follow.
I was surprised to say the least. I hadn’t had an opportunity to talk with Charlie and his wife about their spiritual lives and it wasn’t really my place to do so. I was just a member of the church that acted unofficially as the Pastor’s assistant in the worship services on occasion.
On the other hand, if God makes me aware of a situation, I am responsible to Him for how I respond. In this case I didn’t have a chance to say anything but my wife and I started praying for Charlie and his wife. We also started to wonder how many others in the church, especially in the older generation, were not saved.
A few weeks later Jeff and Charlie brought it up again in an open, come-as-you-are type, Sunday School class after the service. How can Christians be so intolerant? Christ is for the Christians. Mohammed is for Islam. Buddha is for the Buddhists. Everyone had their own way to be saved.
Lord, what should I do?
I was concerned about them, of course, and I wanted them to be saved. Thirty years in church and still deluded about the truth was simply too much. But there was another problem.
Rosa was there.
Rosa had just become a Christian the week before. I had noticed her sitting beside me in our Sunday School class the previous week and every once in a while I saw her tremble just a bit as if she was barely holding it together. When it was time to close, she mentioned that she needed prayer for a difficult situation she was going through and a single tear escaped from her eye and rolled down her cheek.
As the group prayed, I struggled within myself. Was it my responsibility to talk to this lady? I was supposed to lay low, not do anything, stop acting like a leader.
Lord, what do you want me to do?
When we stopped praying, I looked at her and said, “Would you like to talk?” She nodded and ten minutes later she was giving her life to the Lord and we were praying the sinners’ prayer together.
Just then the group leader came back. I told him the good news that Rosa had given her life to the Lord. Evidently, he knew this lady and mentioned that the Pastor had already scheduled a meeting with her for the next day. Had I overstepped my bounds? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that Rosa was born again into a new life and that was good enough for me.
That was last week. Now Rosa was here again with her new found faith and she had brought her oldest daughter as well. Jeff and Charlie started with their statements about intolerant Christians and the need for a universal gospel where all religions lead to God.
Lord, should I speak up?
Of course, I could not keep quiet. Others in the group joined in as well and shared their witness that Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him. It was a beautiful moment. But I knew that we would have to leave the church. I simply could not keep quiet even though the leadership had told me to.
“Charlie,” I said at one point, “if getting into heaven is about being a nice guy, you certainly qualify. You’re one of the nicest people I know.” I meant it. I like Charlie and Jeff. I like them too much not to say something.
That’s the one thing we can learn from an eight year old evangelist. On the one hand, she knows that you need to believe in and follow Jesus to be saved, otherwise you go to hell. Like it or not, that is the unavoidable truth of the Scriptures. On the other hand, she likes these neighbor kids. They’re her friends. They play together. The result of these two truths, the reality of hell without Jesus and love for others, was evangelism. She marched out of the house to tell them about Jesus. She liked them enough to say something and it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
As I sat writing these words, Michelle came in and my wife asked her about what she had said to the neighbors the day before. Apparently she talked to the kids and not to the parents, though they must have been present. She started by saying that the Bible was the Word of God but already they began to argue.
“They said there was nothing behind the curtain,” Michelle said, puzzled.
A reference to the Wizard of Oz?
That sounded like one of the adults talking but before I could say anything, Michelle continued.
“They said they believed in a monkey.” Again, she was confused.
“A monkey?” I said. “Oh, I think they mean evolution.”
“Well, some people think that we came from monkeys instead of being created by God.”
“That’s stupid,” she said.
That was about all we got out of her. Eight year olds are easily distracted. But I knew that she had started on a great adventure with God. We have fine sounding names for it. Apologetics. Evangelism. Discipleship. But there are other words as well. Adventure. Transformation. Glory. Abundant Life. The Pursuit of God. It made us wonder what God had in store for her.
“You know, Michelle,” my wife said. “God was watching you and he was very proud that his little girl was telling others about him.”
Michelle beamed. Literally.
It was like every freckle on her face lit up with pleasure. Just as it should be.
Yes, God is watching us. The question is whether he is proud of us or whether he is grieved that we don’t love each other enough to talk about Him. It isn’t about being nice, although being nice is nice. It’s about love and love is sometimes tough. It tells the truth, it does what is in the best interest of the other, it even confronts and intervenes and speaks up, even when you get into trouble for it. If people matter, then they matter enough to hear the truth of the gospel, although it should always be seasoned with grace.
It’s a good question. Is God proud of us? Or are we ashamed of the gospel? The thing is, when it comes to the church, I wish we were all eight years old. Life would be much simpler that way.
Truth. Love. Evangelism. Period.
Unless you become like little children,
you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
– Jesus of Nazareth
The Desert Warrior
The Eight Year Old Evangelist by Bert A. Amsing. Used with Permission.
Excerpt from Jesus was an Alien (and Other Stories of Faith) by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.