God will often use everyday situations to teach me—today’s is a stray cat.
First, the Story
Through an open window from my home office, the pleasant autumn breeze carried with it a faint cry in the distance. I stood from my desk and the cries grew louder—sounding like mews of a frightened kitten. I hurried outside to search, but the meowing had stopped. I shrugged, realizing it was time to leave for my Bible study anyway.
Much later that night, my daughter, Charity and her boyfriend, Matt informed me they heard a kitten crying from the neighbor’s tree. She had to have been there all day. The poor thing had her back leg wedged between the bend of two branches and was hanging vertically clutching another branch with her front claws, her head facing the ground.
We got a ladder and Matt climbed to the highest rung. When he reached in to take hold of her (wearing gloves to protect himself), the meows instantly turned into guttural moans and hisses. Although Matt was trying to help her, she did not trust him.
Once she was out of the tree, despite offering her food, the kitten would have nothing to do with us.
It was going to take time, patience and effort to gain the trust of this kitten.
People who don’t trust God feel this way for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they have been hurt by the church or someone who claimed to follow God, or maybe they have misconceptions about God.
Like the kitten who sees a giant hand reaching for her as a threat, people who don’t know much about God other than what they see in this fallen world, have false perceptions of God.
The Bible tells us that God is good and everything He does is good (Psalm 119:68). But if one only views God through the lens of the ugly things that happen— like abused children and catastrophic earthquakes—God is anything but good.
When I first heard the cries from the kitten, I was on my way to church. Since the cries stopped, I needed to be on my way.
I thought about how sometimes Christians are so busy doing “churchy” activities that when we are faced with actually putting our love for Jesus into practice, we are too busy, or don’t even notice.
How can Christians gain the trust of those who have been hurt, don’t understand God or who are just different from us?
We Must First Hear the Cry
Let’s not be so busy doing church stuff that we miss the needs of those outside of the church (or even inside). I was at an outdoor event with local vendors, bands, and a car show. I noticed a man near a tree, curled in a fetal position, wearing very little. I saw a few people glance at him then keep walking. Most did not even see him. He didn’t ask for anything, however, the very fact that he was in a public place is a cry for help.
We must open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts.
It might be a co-worker who is in a difficult marriage, or someone from soccer that is a different faith and questioning Christianity, or maybe someone who was hurt by the church. The circumstances are endless. The point is, we must be alert and willing to be used by God.
It starts with asking God to make us aware of and sensitive to the needs of those around us.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2: 3-5
We Must Meet Them in Their Need without Judgement
“Well, you got yourself in this predicament (drug addiction, fired, divorce, etc.).”
Comments like this, only shame and push people away. Throwing scripture at them doesn’t help either.
Let’s face it, theology and church dogma doesn’t save anyone.
It’s the love and the blood of Jesus that does the saving. It’s our job to show people we care.
If they are stuck, let’s take measures to help them out. I’m talking about a hand up, not a handout. There are times, of course, when we are to give someone a meal or money and not expect anything in return. If someone is stuck, whether it’s unemployment or an addiction, the most loving thing to do is help that person get unstuck. This requires more than just money. Which brings me to my next point:
We Must Aim to Build Relationships
Jesus pursued friendships with people who were different than him. Shouldn’t we?
It seems the church is afraid of having relationships outside of their beliefs or with anyone un-churched. Now, I know the Bible warns about those we spend the most time with. Yes, we should surround ourselves with relationships that help build our relationship with God. But we should also leave room for authentic relationships with those who do not hold our beliefs or are in need or have no faith/religion.
If we don’t build relationships with non-Christians it just leaves them to learn about the church in situational or observational ways. Jesus was much deeper than that. He went to their house for dinner, he traveled with them, and he listened to them.
When was the last time you had someone over for a meal who was a different skin color or religion or held a different political view or was an addict (not in recovery)?
People are hungry for “real” friendships.
That brings me to the next point:
We Must be Authentic
There’s a word for Christian who say one thing and do another. The word is hypocrite.
Here’s the thing, we all mess up. We all say one thing and do another at some point. The real issue is pretending that we have it all together.
Look at these words from the apostle Paul, “Nothing good lives in me. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:18).
Sanctification is a process.
Those who are surrendered to Jesus are becoming more like him. We aren’t there yet, but we are different—more like Christ.
So, let’s not pretend to be something that we’re not. Let’s be authentic.
Admitting our shortcomings to others inside and outside the church bridges a gap.
Mahatma Ghandi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
People still feel this way today.
Let’s make it our mission to change this line of thinking by living the mission of Christ:
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:37-39
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35