Where Is Jesus Today?
June 1, 2002 - A few years ago I asked God for an early retirement from evangelism. After eight years of pastoring a church, I could identify only trace elements of spiritual growth in the congregation. And in me, the fire of Christ’s compassion had slowly turned to icy cynicism. I was sick and tired of people. Needy people. Petty people. Dysfunctional people. They were legion, and I resented their pain and brokenness. I made God an offer: "Here I am, Lord. Send me to Cancun."
by Mathew Woodley
Instead, God sent me on a vacation to my wife’s hometown—Libby, Montana. While I was relaxing in a park, three children with unkempt clothes and dirt-streaked faces plopped themselves in the grass near me. I didn’t want to talk.
I was perched comfortably on the jungle gym and deeply involved in a novel. Trying to avoid eye contact, I quietly edged away.
Before I could sneak off, the oldest child breathlessly launched into a tangled story of family dysfunction: "Hi, my name is Deanna, and I’m 12; my sister is Kristy, and she’s 10; and Mikey, my brother, is six. Mikey’s not my real brother, though. We all have different dads. My dad is dead; Kristy’s dad disappeared; and Mikey’s dad beats him up, so our mom is divorcing the creep. My mom and her fiancé, Larry, are at the casino. They need some time alone, so she told us to stay in the park for two hours."
Then Deanna asked, "What’s your job?"
Trying to stay uninvolved, I whispered, "Well, actually, I’m a pastor."
After a long silence, Deanna said softly, "Pastor, we’ve been to church a few times and heard stories about Jesus healing and feeding people. Why doesn’t He do that anymore? Where is Jesus today?"
I gave them a five-minute lecture on the doctrine of the incarnation. It was brilliant. It was also cold, detached and compassionless.
Three children stared back at me with love-hungry eyes. The glacier of icy cynicism in my soul melted.
With tears welling in my eyes, I said, "Let me start over. Do you have any idea how much Jesus loves you?"
I told them that Jesus is alive and that He is inviting them to become His children. I told them that nothing then can separate us from the love of God—not divorce, or abuse, or homelessness, or our own sin.
I don’t know if my words helped them, but I do know that God used this encounter to ignite again Christ’s fire of compassion in my heart.
Wherever Deanna, Kristy and Mikey are, I pray that they will find believers to come alongside them. If God can use a burnt-out, cynical, runaway pastor, surely He can use any believer with a heart open wide to the lost, the broken, the poor, the hurting.