When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, "Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?" "Do not kill them," he answered. "Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master." So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory.
2 Kings 6:21-23
"I could never be a Christian," she said, with that I-really-want-you-to-understand-me stare, a look of pleading, entreaty. We weren't alone. We were in the teacher's lounge - eating lunch - as we did daily. Regular circumstances, not-so-regular topic. Sure, some of us went to the same church in town. Sure, sometimes conversation included church stuff. But not salvation. Never something as deep as actual belief.
"I just can't get past the saving part," she confided, "the part where if you say you believe in Jesus, you go to heaven." I was a brand-new Christian myself. That saving part was a precious gift in my mind. Grace. That saving part was a miracle to me. A miracle that I had finally claimed - desperately. And now that I had invited Jesus into my life, I knew I would never let Him go. So, here I was. In the teacher's lounge. Listening.
"Is it true," she asked, "that once you accept Jesus, you go to heaven? He is the only way to heaven?" I nodded, she had opened that tiny little door to one of my own issues. The only way. Every day I prayed a little prayer to cover my own issues. God, I believe. Help my unbelief. The only way - surely good people, moral people, saintly people would have a way. It sounded so exclusive - so Manifest Destiny-ish. My inner turmoil...not now...spinning a web in my head....not now. God, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.
I listened. She was so intent, so intense; her face hardened. "My father became a Christian. According to Christianity, he's going to heaven." She looked away for an instant, her hand unconsciously clenched on the table. Then unclenched as her eyes turned back to mine. "He abused us, my sister and me. Years ago. He doesn't deserve to go to heaven." She stared through me, laser focus to a time and place only she could see. "He deserves to rot in hell." Her lunch was half-eaten, napkin neatly laid out, yogurt cup opened, plastic spoon ready. We were in the teacher's lounge - eating - as we did daily. Regular circumstances, not-so-regular topic.
She wasn't a hugger. My natural reaction was to give her a hug - of reassurance, acceptance, understanding. She wasn't a hugger.
What do you do with that? What do you say? How do you comfort? Words weren't enough. "I'm sorry," I said. "I'm sorry that you had to go through that." Oh God, help me. Help her. I see you, knocking. Like you did with me. Surround her with people who know you, help her to continue to seek You. Let this not be about her father, but about You. God, help me to know what to do...
God isn't easy, sometimes. He is awesome. He is terrible. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He has high expectations of and for us. That lunchtime was difficult for me. I wanted to help, to share, to rejoice about Christ in my life. It was not a time for words - and neither were the next six months at that school. Not directly. To her. But...it was a time for action. Our actions speak for us - louder, more eloquently, more consistently than our words. I was changed - working to glorify God in my life - which affected the lives of those around me. Not always successful, but lifted through my failures by grace. Working, even at school. Even at lunch. Through action.
Thousands of years ago, a prophet of God told the King of Israel to show mercy to the soldiers of a rival king. Not only mercy, but generosity. So he set out a feast for the captured soldiers. And released them. The story could end here - with the obedience of the King of Israel. But God went a step further. Cause and effect. Because the King did as he was told, his subjects, the Israelites were kept safe from further raids by those released troops. Cause and effect.
I continue to pray for my friend. I pray that she is shown God's love and God's grace in her life. I pray that she open the door to Jesus, so He can strengthen her, teach her, help her - to forgive, to love. I pray that He lead her to peace. Her questions will be answered - He is the Truth.
God, I believe. Help my belief.
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