it is all about relationships

Elder Thomas and Elder Payne

They were my friends. They were on their 2 year mission. They were exactly my age and they wanted to convert me as I wanted them to hear and know the gospel truth that I believe.

I was working at the local Y and they came in daily to exercise but I bet to build relationships too. I worked with another Christian and the four of us would joke about who would get converted first us or them. It was a cordial, jovial friendship.

That spring I would graduate and no longer live in the area so there was an urgency in my heart and desire to share the truth I believe which simply is no need for religion or works but rather having a relationship with Christ and recognizing by faith He did all the work on the cross. It is by His blood we are saved – nothing else! Nothing we can do but to just accept the free gift of salvation.

I had many conversations with friends at my college about the desire I had for these guys to decide for themselves and be exposed to the gospel truth.

One friend and I decided to meet up with them to just continue to build a friendship. Of course the guys were so excited thinking they were going to help us take steps to become Mormons. They believed they were fulfilling their mission with us.

My co-worker asked to come along with the spouse. I reluctantly said yes because I didn’t know the spouse and didn’t want to burn this bridge. Well, burn it did!

That spouse came in with guns loaded and arms full of combat material including one very large book titled Mormonism the Cult in big bold capital letters and slammed it down on the little swing arm desk in the lecture hall on my campus where we met them at. I had prayed the meeting would go well. I had prayed we would build trust and friendship. I had prayed peace would be in the midst. The problem is if everyone is not on board with those prayers how can they come to pass.

Having an agenda was not the best way to start a meet and greet. Y ou can only imagine how awful the rest of the night was. My heart ached knowing these guys were being treated like they had been thrown to the wolves. Questions were thrown with no time for a response or they were cut off in their response if they tried to give one. It was never my intention to beat them down but rather poke small holes to gently expose doctrine that was not in the Bible and point them in the right direction to find truth on their own.

At one point, that uninvited spouse who had no relationship with the guys got up and was very vocal and gathered their stuff to leave obviously upset not getting anywhere with my dear friends. Of course, there was no where to be gotten with that argumentative, righteous attitude!

Where was the love? Where was the gentleness? But more importantly, that night severed something we had built over many months before. All that seemed to matter was only to arm twist them to the other side. Rarely does that work and we were left to try to pick up the pieces.

But, sadly the damage was already done and our relationship with Elder Thomas and Elder Payne was never the same. I so regretted allowing them to join and I vowed to myself to never to have a meeting include someone I didn’t know.

I saw these guys 5 days a week and I was dreading the next time I had to face them.

Like I said, the relationship with them as well as my co-worker with was never the same. We, of course, apologized to the guys and apologies were given to me. I apologized to God and I have been sad about that night ever sense. I have often wondered if that encounter drew them deeper into their religion rather than showing them how to know truth for themselves and have a daily encounter with the one true living God. That was over 30 years ago and I still pray for them. I pray they have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and recognized He is all we need. He is the Messiah that came in human form. We no longer need to wait or wonder if He has but rather wait expectantly for His return. I pray for that co-worker and book slamming, fire and brimstone shouting spouse. I pray they have found a softer way to plant seeds. And I pray that every encounter I have whether with a homeless person on the streets of New York or abroad, a local recovering addict to my neighbors or relatives, or grocery store and restaurant workers I encounter all come to see and recognize the hope I have within and one day they too know Jesus for themselves.

And I am also reminded: Be gentle but be ready to give the reason for the hope you have inside. Pray for those that don’t yet know the truth and if able befriend a Mormon missionary or Jehovah witness or Muslim. Live life with them and just show them how you love God without words. And when the opportunity comes, share the words God lays on your heart. No slamming or shouting required or needed.

It really is all about relationships – ours with God and ours with others as the only true way to know who we are is by how we act in relations with others.

That spouse didn’t act loving or kind.

Remember, others will know we are Christians by our love.

Show love, respect, and kindness for all mankind for how else can they come to know our Heavenly Father if they can’t see Him through the love in us.

It is all about relationships – ours with God first and then ours with others.

So if perhaps someday Elder Thomas or Elder Payne come across this writing, know I am still praying the truth will set you free and you will know works or good deeds are not needed at all but Christ offers His free gift of salvation to all who believe. God’s love is about redemption and forgiveness. We just need to accept it.

How well does the world know your God through your life?

Live so others can see Him.

Love with or without words!

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” I Peter 3.15

They will know we are Christians by our love (paraphrase John 13.35)

and that is how to…

be.the.church

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