Typically, I’ve been writing here on issues related primarily to culture and current events. While I write about those things from a personal angle, I don’t normally discuss topics about my own day-to-day experience. Few people would be interested in reading anyone’s (much less my own) online journal.
But over the last couple of weeks, I have been co-leading a team of college students on a church planting road trip all across New England. Yesterday, I had an experience worth sharing.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve witnessed just how crazy of a world we live in. For Americans, the insanity has been particularly evident during the last couple of weeks as the subject of race war has reared its ugly head once again in the United States.
It can be difficult to fathom how anything in the world could be going according to a plan deemed “good.” Senseless murder, violent extremists, corrupt politicians: all assault our confidence in hope.
To add to these extremes, I faced a small, personal disappointment yesterday when, on our sight-seeing day, I could not find a parking place in downtown Boston for our mini-bus. A couple of weeks prior, we had been able to park the bus at a subway station on our way to seeing the Red Sox play at Fenway Park. On this day, however, that lot would be filled, forcing me to drop off our team at the station. I then had to make the disappointing, lonely drive back to the church we were staying at, thirty minutes outside the city.
Of all of the sight-seeing excursions that we had planned on taking during our month long trip, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston had been at the top of my list. I won’t sugarcoat my disappointment at missing the many sights in the city. I was disgusted to have missed out on the opportunity.
Yet, as I pulled our minibus into the church parking lot, I drove by a young man who, with phone out, was walking around the outside of the building. He nodded at me as I drove to the back of the property to park the bus, and when I found him standing outside the door to the church, he nodded at me and asked if I was playing “the game.”
If you’ve been paying attention in recent days, you’ve heard news of or else noticed the phenomenon that is Pokemon Go, a cell phone app that simulates the old video game by creating a virtual universe that corresponds to the real world locations via GPS tracking. It just so happened that this young man had walked over to the church because the location served as a key destination for gameplay.
So, when he asked me about the game, our conversation began. I told him that I hadn’t had time to play and that I was visiting from Georgia to serve the church by helping with the summer activities they hosted for kids. When I mentioned that, this young man said, “Oh really? I used to go to their camp when I was a kid.”
Based on that connection, I then had the opportunity to talk to him about Jesus, the Gospel, and the Kingdom of God, a dialogue that lasted for well over an hour. He asked questions; I asked questions, and we got into a rather deep discussion on the nature of reality and the Christian understanding of the world. We were both engaged in the conversation, and by the end, we came to, at least, understand one another better.
Though he wasn’t quite willing to follow the Savior whom I profess and serve, he now knew the Gospel message that motivates every true Christian. I had the chance to let him know that I wouldn’t have traded our conversation for touring Boston a thousand times over. I said it, and I meant it. I gave him my number, and let him know that, to his surprise, I would be praying for him. He then walked away, telling me that our conversation would be stuck in the back of his head, at least for a while.
That talk will stick with me too. I can’t describe the radical, emotional transformation I experienced, going from nearly depressed to completely elated and spiritually full. It was a breath of fresh air in a mad, toxic world. In that conversation, as I shared the depth, beauty, and, yes, the simplicity of the Gospel, I was reminded of the message’s extraordinary power. The Lord reminded me that it is the true answer for a broken, messed up world.
I was encouraged and also convicted. I was encouraged because recounting the Gospel always allows me to recall the hope that we have in these little clay vessels. The Spirit convicted me because I don’t always rush to break open this fragile vessel in order to share the Gospel. I do not always faithfully live and love according to the truth of the message.
Allow me to share that same comforting challenge with you. The Gospel of humanity’s salvation by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed you if you have put your faith in the hope of its truth. You’re no longer a slave to sin, death, and confusion. The Light of the World has redeemed, saved, and filled you. And in doing so, He has sent you to be emissaries of His light to a dark world.
The hope that fills you can transform our sin-ridden societies into bastions of peace and goodness. Do you believe that? If you believe it, do you live it?
Let we who believe be the Church: members of the life-giving Body of Christ, His hands and feet called to bring His Spirit and His Truth to a desperate, floundering world.