“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
As we sat in small groups during our church’s leadership study we were handed an unusual task. As the offering plates were passed, we could each take an envelope with cash if we were willing to accept the accompanying challenge. First, we were to pray for God to lead us to a needy person whom we had never met before. We were to share the money with them, making certain they knew this money was a gift from the Lord and not from us. Then we were to return the following Wednesday and report how this act of generosity had impacted that person. Two hundred of us took the challenge, oblivious to the fact that we would be the ones most affected.
My friend Sally slipped the envelope into her purse and began to pray in earnest. She was one of the few who had received a hundred dollar bill, and she was convinced God would lead her to someone who desperately needed it. Over the weekend Sally went to the mall, climbed into her wheelchair, and rode around looking expectantly for that special person. She had come prepared for the assignment with a written testimony to hand out along with the cash. Sally had a dazzling smile, eyes that sparkled, and a heart captivated by the goodness and mercy of God. She wanted to make sure that her recipient understood that the money was a tiny gift, but that Jesus’ offer of salvation was the true reward. Her typewritten letter made the gospel crystal clear.
After a while Sally noticed a shabby woman slumped on a bench in a corner of the mall, and carefully lined up her wheelchair in front of the lady. “May I speak with you for a moment?” she asked.
“No. Go away,” the woman replied.
“You don’t understand. I have a gift for you. I want to give you something. May I do that? I don’t want anything from you.”
“Go away. Leave me alone. I don’t want what you have,” the woman said as she turned her head away, refusing to even look at her.
My friend did what the woman asked and left. She kept searching for someone, found a cleaning lady mopping the tiled walkways, and presented her with the envelope and the gospel. When she recounted her adventure to us the following Wednesday, we could still sense her amazement that the first woman had rejected such a wonderful offer.
For me, the woman on the bench is a startling picture of all those who turn away when presented with the gift of Jesus Christ. We muster up our courage, share the gospel as best as we know how, relay how much the Savior has accomplished in our lives, and entreat our friend to accept his gift of salvation. But in a hundred different ways they tell us, “Go away. Leave me alone. Take your gift and scram. I want no part of what you offer. I refuse to believe. I cannot accept. I will not receive your Jesus as my Savior. Go away. Leave me alone.”
And sadly we leave them be, praying that God will soften their heart, asking the Father of Heaven to reach down from on high and turn their heart to his. We make our way toward them, but we cannot force them to receive. Our challenge is to keep looking, to keep our eyes tuned to opportunities to share his Word, and to hand out his envelope of truth every chance we get.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell