Friday, January 24, 2020
Isaiah 59:1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
We really didn’t know what to expect. When Denise and I registered for our dining time on the cruise, we had the option of choosing a large table with other people, or a table by ourselves. We decided that since there would be so many other opportunities to meet people, we would choose a table by ourselves and spend that quality time focused on each other.
When we arrived at the dining room the first night, we were ushered to our table by the head waiter dressed in a tuxedo. As we arrived at our table, I quickly discovered what private table means on a cruise ship. Instead of several tables being pushed together to form a large table, the small two-person tables were spaced twenty-two inches apart. The gentleman at the table next to me was less than an arm’s length away.
As we sat and reviewed the menu for the evening, it was obvious that our quiet private dinner would soon become a time of fellowship with the people at the neighboring table. I turned and initiated a conversation with a young couple. As we talked, we discovered their living status, state, and their professions. It was obvious that serving Jesus Christ was not on their radar, and that they were adrift in the sea of self-indulgence.
At this point it would have been easy for some who call themselves Christians to end the conversation and seclude themselves at their own table as best they could. But that’s not natural to my heart and certainly not a product of the love of Jesus that captivates me. So the conversation continued with this heavily tattooed bar owner and his live-in girlfriend.
Eventually they asked me what I did for a living. Without hesitation I said, “I’m a pastor.” Denise and I both waited for their response. The woman spoke first. She leaned in towards me and with a soft and humble spirit said, “May I ask you a favor?” After I agreed, she told me the story of her best friend back in Texas who had just given birth to premature twins, and one of them had died the day the cruise left port. She was distraught that she couldn’t be there for her friend. She asked me to pray for her. I asked for the mother’s name and it was provided to me. When our food arrived, Denise and I bowed our heads and I prayed for that mother and for our new friends as they went through this time of grief.
On two more occasions during the cruise the Lord directed our steps to connect with this couple. On each occasion I asked how they were doing, and asked specifically about the grieving mother and called her by name. Then, when the cruise was over, and we got on the bus to return to the airport, there sitting right in front of us was this couple, and we chatted again and told them we would be remembering them and their friend in prayer.
I don’t know what effect any of that will have on their lives, but I’m not in charge of that – the Holy Spirit is. But God taught me an important lesson through that experience – don’t make judgments about people based on their external appearance and their public sin. It will create small yet strong barriers between us and the people to who Christ wants to show His love. We must not tend toward seclusion from sinners, but we must intentionally engage them. As the arm of the Lord we often come up short.
We are the arm of the Lord to bring the knowledge of salvation to those who need it. We are the ear of the Lord to listen for people’s cries for help. We must overcome the fleshly desire to judge others and seclude ourselves from them. We must stretch out the arms of God’s love and embrace people where they are and show them that grace is available. No matter how they appear on the outside, and not matter what they have chosen as their lifestyle, they have the same spiritual need that we had before we met Jesus. Let’s introduce them to Him.