Today’s message is from Pastor Pam Sutherland of the St. Paul United Methodist Church & Fort Gibson United Methodist Church.
Recently someone asked me to pray for a loved one after receiving a frightening report about their health. This is not an unusual request as I receive text, email, and phone call requests for prayer every day. It comes with the territory.
What was so unusual about this request is that it came from a non-believer. From someone who has said they are not a Christian. Someone who has struggled with believing the Gospel when their interactions with many “Christians” have been less than Christ-like. Yet in that moment of desperate fear they reached out for some thread of hope.
Our world is full of people who want to believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ but what stops them many times is us. They look at us and instead of seeing Jesus in us, instead of seeing hope and healing, they see judgment, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness, to name just a few of our sins. I have been, and still am sometimes, guilty. Guilty of looking at someone’s outside appearance or situation and making a judgment about them. Guilty of doing or saying something completely un-Christlike. Guilty of being proud that I am not like those people. God forgive me.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is looking at the crowds of people who had come for hope, help, and healing, and Matthew records:
There are millions of people who claim the name “Christian” but comparatively few who do the “work” of sharing the hope of the Gospel by making sure their own words and actions reflect a humble, Christ-like attitude toward others. We can unknowingly push people away rather than draw them to Christ when our heart attitude is not right.
We will all fall short at some time or another, I certainly have. In fact, I’m sure that I have contributed to my unbelieving friend’s wrong perception of Christianity because of some wrong heart attitude that spilled out of my mouth. The Holy Spirit continues to work in me so that (hopefully) there is more of Jesus and less of me that comes out in my words and actions.
My friend’s prayer request was answered and their loved one turned out to be okay. God was glorified, my friend’s hope was encouraged, and maybe they are one step closer to believing. Not because of me or my prayer, but because God’s grace is at work in their life in order to bring them into the harvest. I pray that my words and actions will never get in the way of what God is doing and that perhaps I will be counted among the “few” who help bring in that harvest.
May that be the prayer of all of our hearts.
Grace, peace, and joy in Christ,