Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Are You Weeping?

Francis Schaeffer was an American pastor who was called to work for the Lord in a unique way. He want to Switzerland in the 1950's and eventually formed a mission called "L'Abri". That mission's work was a living demonstration to many people that the infinite-personal triune God of Scripture exists. Many young people, who were brushed aside by their Christian teachers, parents, etc., found in L'Abri a place where they would be listened to. A place where they could hear something beyond the "patt answers" they were used to hearing. A place where they were treated with dignity due to every human, even if they weren't "all together". And the hundreds of people who visited L'Abri heard the Biblical gospel faithfully presented.

Francis was remarkable in a number of ways. One of things that really stood out was this: He was very intellectual. But he never treated Christian apologetics as a mere intellectual exercise. His goal was not to form an apologetical system or win debates, but rather to reach out to people. He had immense care for the people he talked to. He listened to them and he made great effort to relate to them. He wept for the youth who put their hopes in drugs, eastern religion, etc. during the 1960's. If you watch a video where he is teaching a lecture or relating a story, there is no hiding it. He face shows it all. As he talks about his conversations with youths whose hopes have been shattered, you can see the pain that he felt for them. It literally choked him up. When he told of despair, he wasn't talking about statistics but about real living people made in the image of God. To Schaeffer there were no "little" or "insignificant" people.

One individual recounts his college encounter with Francis Schaeffer: "He was a small man—barely five feet in his knickers, knee socks, and ballooning white shirts. For two weeks, first as a freshman and then again as a senior, I sat in my assigned seat at Wheaton College's chapel and heard him cry. He was the evangelical conscience at the end of the 20th century, weeping over a world that most of his peers dismissed as not worth saving, except to rescue a few souls in the doomed planet's waning hours. While Hal Lindsey was disseminating an exit strategy in The Late Great Planet Earth, Francis Schaeffer was trying to understand and care for people still trapped on the planet in The God Who Is There."

If we want to be evangelists, apologists, and ambassdors for Christ, we need to think long and hard as to whether we love the unsaved enough. If we love them, why aren't we weeping over them? If their fate can't even bring a tear to our eye, how can we in all seriousness feel the urgency to help them? The other difficulty is that we can get so disturbed by sin that we become ANGRY instead of being COMPASSIONATE. Righteous anger has its proper place, but most of them time it seems to be unproductive anger, often anger that gets us into trouble or leads us to treat others poorly. We see all sorts of perversions and sin around us. It greatly troubles us, and it should! But do we ever truly weep for the people? Do we ever feel sorrow for individuals instead of merely getting angry about where our country is headed in an abstract sort of way?

Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet". Anyone who could write a book named "Lamentations" knows something of weeping. Jesus wept, and not only for people's sin but for the sorrow of death, etc. Many men of God throughout history (not just Francis Schaeffer) have lamented and weeped for the sins (and the fate) of the people around them. This has forced me to stop and think. Do I have this sort of compassion? I think the conservative evangelical Christian church is often doing more shouting than weeping right now. Here's a thought: If our advocacy of "Christian values" within the political and cultural arenas is so focused on general rhetoric against abstract "groups" that we can't think of and weep over SPECIFIC individuals who are tasting the bitter despair caused by their sin, we are way off base. Our "fight" for Christian values will never be credible until we posses a compassionate sorrow for those who are serving sin. And by that I mean the real sorrow which comes from one who has empathy, not a proud mocking sort of disgust.

It is one thing to frown upon other people's sin, but it is another thing entirely to compassionately feel (as much as is possible) the weight of another person's sin.

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