Over the last few days, I began feeling like God was whispering to me to follow-up with the woman I led to Christ last week. (See The Party In Heaven On April 12, 2011) I had been praying that He would work in her life, become real to her, transform her. Truth be told, though, I was a little nervous about calling her. Our conversation had been so volatile and I wanted to believe that once she accepted Christ and we prayed together (despite the very words I had myself said to her about the fact that all of her external problems would not go away) all of her external problems would go away and all would be well. One person to whom I related the story said to me: you never really know how things will turn out after you lead someone to Christ. It was in that moment that a bunch of things – fears really – collided in my head and heart. This woman is alone in the world. She has no family, no friends. She is homeless and believes deeply that she has been wronged. She is physically sick. She is not employed. And perhaps worst of all, she does not feel loved. Becoming involved in her life would be . . . well, time consuming, hard. A voice in my head said to be careful, and asked if I really wanted to get involved with this woman with so many different problems.
I didn’t answer that voice and just took one small step: I called her and asked how she was doing. She said: not well. I asked how she was feeling about what we had talked about on Tuesday. She said: “Everything you said to me was a lie. That you felt love for me. All a lie.” My head started to spin, my heart sank. I screamed out in my head to God: “What?? Why, God? What can I do? Please, Lord, please intervene! Show yourself to her! Please!”
I collected myself and calmly asked her why she thought that. She said, “Well, I thought if you did love me like you said, you would have helped me. But, just like everyone else in my life, everyone else I’ve ever talked to, it was just a lie.”
I opened my mouth to say something and she interrupted, “That’s what I thought. Until just now. Now you have called me just to see how I am doing. I may have to re-think things. Maybe you weren’t lying.” And there it was.
It would have been so much easier not to make that call, to simply believe that the story ended when we hugged and cried and she walked out the door. I could invent all kinds of outcomes that would be great to tell. To lead this woman to Christ and then walk away from her, though, would not have been following Christ. I would have been saying one thing and doing quite another (which, believe me, I do more than I would prefer to admit). Following Christ is costly, it’s inconvenient to my own desires, it takes from my claims to my time, it is scary and makes me step into things that are messy and broken. But it is everything.
As Bonhoeffer said, there is cheap grace and costly grace:
“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate . . . Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship at 44-45)
I’m in something now that is messy. I don’t know how long I’ll be in it. I don’t know what it will look like. I don’t know what will happen. But it is beautiful, it feels like life, and it is everything. Following Christ is loving one another as Christ loves us. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12) You know the rest of the story, what Christ did, how He loved.
Loving someone as Christ loves us is not walking away from them, it is walking to them, whatever the cost.